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Frog Unconquers Princess’s Bones

A historical tale of athleticism and heroism, a bestselling book adaptation, and old-school Disney animation with new school racial awareness populate the theaters this week.  Unlike last week’s meager holiday offerings, Hollywood appears to have raised its game to match the expectations of the season.  And speaking of games, our first movie is the story of how a rugby player helped save South Africa – Invictus (Rotten TomatoesMetacritic).  You might be wondering why Invictus isn’t in the title of this roundup.  Well, Invictus is latin for unconquered and while I was briefly tempted to translate the headline from English into Latin, it came out as Frog procer diligo invictus bones, which sounded just enough like Engilsh to confuse people and not enough like Latin to make me sound smart.  So, time-traveling Romans be damned, let’s get started.

“Damon, beefed up for the occasion, makes Pienaar a stalwart yet courtly figure. Freeman infuses Mandela’s speeches with the same gentleness and gravity he’s brought to his numerous God roles and the Visa Olympics commercials. But the real deity here is Eastwood, still chugging away handsomely in his 80th year.” Time Richard Corliss

Go on, make God's day.

“Who’d have thought that old Dirty Harry would, with Letters from Iwo Jima and Invictus, become America’s prime director of international trauma and triumph?” Richard Corliss TIME Magazine

Before we get to that question, can we address why America gets to be storyteller for world history?

“The wonder of Invictus is that it actually went down this way.” Newsweek David Ansen

Well, at least it’s accurate.

“Like every Eastwood production, Invictus is stately, handsomely mounted, attentive to detail right down to the Marmite adorning the team’s breakfast buffet, and relentlessly conventional. As a portrait of a hero, the movie effortlessly brings a lump to the throat (Freeman gives a subtly crafted performance that blends Mandela’s physical frailty with his easy charm and cerebral wit); as history, it is borderline daft and selective to the point of distortion.” Village Voice Ella Taylor

Ah, distorted truth.  Colbert would be proud.

Colbert is to Truthiness what this illustration is to photography

“This year’s contender for most mediocre Best Picture nominee.” Matt Pais Metromix.com

Three cheers for Invictus!  Hip hip, horray!  Hip hip, well you get the idea.  Next up Peter Jackson switches from Tolkien to Alice Sebold for the adaptation of The Lovely Bones (Rotten TomatoesMetacritic).

Given that it’s a complex story about grief and life after death from a director made famous for fantasy, there seem to be a fair number of questions about this movie.  For example:

“How do you literalize heaven? It’s a problem moviemakers have struggled with forever, and Jackson hasn’t solved it.” Newsweek David Ansen

My first guess would be CGI or something like this. Next question?

“When else has the obscenity of child murder been the cause of such gravity and grace?” Time Richard Corliss

I don’t know, but I do know there are no chuckles when it comes to child murder unless we’re talking about the Omen.

He just got done playing "Need It, Got it" with people's souls

Perhaps the more pressing question should be: How did the movie do on the book adaptation front?

“Like “The Lord Of The Rings,” The Lovely Bones does a fantastic job with revered, complex source material. As terrific on terra firma as it is audacious in its astral plane, it is doubtful we’ll see a more imaginative, courageous film in 2010.” Empire Ian Freer

“Jackson and his team tell a fundamentally different story. It’s one that is not without its tension, humor and compelling details. But it’s also a simpler, more button-pushing tale that misses the joy and heartbreak of the original.” The Hollywood Reporter Kirk Honeycutt

The disagreements over this movie are reflected in their critical scores.  Perhaps the final question should be, did it have too much of one thing and not enough of another?

“It’s a movie that tips toward overkill–even Ronan’s voice is amplified into a weird whisper. More quiet would have helped.” Time Out New York Joshua Rothkopf

It’s not a good sign when critics want the movie to shut up.  But only haters would say that about our last movie: The Princess and the Frog (Rotten TomatoesMetacritic).  Also, they don’t make muzzles small enough for singing frogs.

“Disney’s triumphant return to hand-drawn 2-D animation still holds an awful lot of familiar, comfort-food charm.” The Onion (A.V. Club) Tasha Robinson

“In an amazing year for animation, The Princess and the Frog is up at the top. Go on, give it a big kiss.” Time Richard Corliss

"Go on. Kiss it."

“Eye-candy–wise, the film plants a big wet smooch; everything else about this happily-ever-after tale, however, feels like a mere air-kiss.”  David Fear Time Out New York

Whew.  But what about the race aspect?  Isn’t this movie supposed to be an ‘about time’ step for Disney?

“The Princess and the Frog is not offensive. This is a harmless, animated musical and as close to getting it socially right as Disney will ever get — too bad it’s about 40 years late.” Clay Cane BET.com

“You know how they say that cops come in only one color, blue? Well, Disney princesses come in only one color: pink.” MaryAnn Johanson Flick Filosopher

Hey! We resemble that remark.

“While Disney seems to be trying to counter some of its pervasive princess ideology, The Princess and the Frog is still showing women who can’t get by without men.” Annie Young Frisbie Christianity Today

I’m glad that Christianity Today is requesting more powerful female role models. I look forward to Disney tackling a musical version of Joan of Arc or the Salem Witch Trials.

“Where Pinocchio was about wishing on a star, The Princess and the Frog emphasizes backing up wishes with hard work. That proviso is a thoughtful message for young moviegoers.” Claudia Puig USA Today

PDJ wishes someone would do his hard work

4 Responses

  1. Saw Invictus. It was emotionally stirring without getting too sappy. Fact driven history sometimes translates to slow pacing on film. I still don’t get rugby, but it was fun to watch. 8/11

  2. I will not debate with your endings because I think you’re exact on the money! You have put together a logical case for your opinions and now I know more about this extraordinary topic. Thanks for this supreme post and i will come back for more.

  3. […] Two art house entries, two mainstreamers, and one film that switched from one to the other (but I already covered it).  This is what you’ll get during the “dung-heap month of January,” or so says […]

  4. […] art house entries, two mainstreamers, and one film that switched from one to the other (but I already covered it).  This is what you’ll get during the “dung-heap month of January,” or so says […]

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