Two Animated Films from Disney
Home on the Range (November 4/07)
Home on the Range was supposed to mark the end of Disney's 2D animated output - this is no longer the case, apparently - and it's certainly not difficult to see why; while the film is basically entertaining, it's been dumbed down to such an extent that only very small children will be able to label it anything more than a pleasant diversion. The story revolves around the efforts of three cows - including Roseanne Barr's Maggie and Judi Dench's Mrs. Caloway - to save their farm by capturing a notorious outlaw (Randy Quaid's Alameda Slim), though it's not long before trio find themselves forced to compete with an ace bounty hunter (Charles Dennis' Rico) and his hyperactive horse (Cuba Gooding Jr's Buck). Home on the Range has been infused with a colorful, exceedingly vibrant visual style that proves to be its most overtly positive attribute, although one can't help but lament the animators' overuse of computer-generated effects to beef up certain sequences (this has been an increasingly problematic issue with Disney's 2D efforts, admittedly). The voice work is generally effective - Steve Buscemi, in particular, offers up a scene-stealing turn as an expectedly shifty figure - and even Barr manages to come off well here, leaving Gooding Jr as the one weak link within the cast (the actor delivers a grating, entirely obnoxious performance that's nothing short of disastrous). The film, rife with cheap laughs and contemporary references, is ultimately unable to live up to the standard set by such modern classics as The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast - with the end result an effort that, more often than not, feels like the pilot episode of an animated sitcom.
Meet the Robinsons (November 15/07)
Were it not for the inclusion of a downright disastrous midsection, Meet the Robinsons would undoubtedly rank among the best in contemporary animation - as the movie possesses an unusually bright and colorful sense of style that immediately sets it apart from its increasingly plentiful brethren. The movie's lack of a solid storyline initially isn't as problematic as one might've imagined, with the irresistibly affable vibe and exceedingly brisk pace certainly doing their part in keeping things interesting. It's not until director Stephen J. Anderson begins to place the emphasis on distinctly (and egregiously) puerile elements that one's interest starts to flag, although - admittedly - small children will surely delight to the over-the-top antics of the various characters. Yet there's simply no denying that the film recovers wonderfully in its surprisingly engaging third act, which is overflowing with unexpected character revelations and a whole host of time-traveling paradoxes (one can't help but be reminded of the Back to the Future trilogy thanks to the latter, and that's certainly never a bad thing). The genuinely moving finale subsequently packs an emotional punch that one wouldn't have expected, and Meet the Robinsons ultimately comes off as a woefully uneven effort that succeeds in spite of its various deficiencies.