Friday, February 11, 2005

Elektra and Pooh's Heffalump Movie: an essay

I decided that I'm going to try to see any and every movie I can, and see if I can come up with anything concerning movies like these that will be insightful.

1. Elektra (Director: Rob Bowman) Release date: January 14

Bowman has done a lot of TV, but he was most involved with "The X-Files." His movies include, surprisingly, The X-Files. He also did Reign of Fire. It's understandable, I guess, that a man who is mostly known for his sci-fi fare did the 1993 skateboard flick Airborne.

Elektra is probably leaving most theatres near you this weekend after a stellar 4-week run. A review like this takes a much different shape when you write at this point in the movie's life as opposed to its opening, since we know how it fared. Yes, this movie is pretty awful, but we already knew that right? What I mostly want to bend this review towards is a comment I read concerning this movie, and how I hate it when comments like this are made because they are one-dimensional assessments.

The comment: Hollywood may be reconsidering making movies with female action heroes after the box office returns of Elektra have fallen short.

After the Kill Bill volumes grossed over $130 million in domestic box office (over $300 million if you count overseas), it's funny that Hollywood would be reconsidering after one flop, a film in Elektra where the creative people involved gave no story for the hero of the movie to thrive. Elektra, starring "Alias" (a TV show that has, before this season, taken the same kind of "female action hero" lumps that this film has) sweetheart Jennifer Garner, puts the title character in a situation where she's been hired to assassinate people. We don't know if they're good or bad people, and I guess that's the point, but Elektra's next assignment involves a father Mark ("ER" stud Goran Visnjic) and his teen daughter Abby (Kirsten Prout). Because Elektra has met these people and formed an ever-so-slight bond with them before knowing they were her targets, she decides that she will protect them instead.

Not easy, considering another organization called The Hand wants Abby, because apparently this kid can put on some kung-fu moves fierce, and is expected to grow into a hellacious ass-kicker when she matures. We find out that Elektra's former sensei, Stick (Terence Stamp), wants her for his own dojo (where she can train for the forces of good!), which of course creates conflict, and Elektra is in the middle of it.

Here's where they fail with Elektra. This story is geared to make her character extremely unlikeable in the beginning, then she is thrust into a situation where a teenage girl is the focus of the conflict. No one really wants anything to do with Elektra, and the reasons for her being involved are to-the-max contrived. Plus, they stick in this obsessive-compulsive disorder, where she counts the number of steps she walks, organizes inessential items around her house, is a clean-freak, etc., but it doesn't figure into her abilities at all, and at the very least, it doesn't create an obstacle for her to overcome later. To grade the future of these kinds of films based purely on the female action hero aspect is wrong, short-sighted, and dumb. If we put Tobey Maguire (from the wildly successful Spider-Man movies) in the film, and he played Elektro (or is it Oedipus?), I can't see the masses wanting to come see this film in droves. It looked horrible from the get-go, and potential customers around the country responded in kind by watching Coach Carter instead.

There are other one-dimensional comments I will be able to focus on later in the year (one concerning animation), and I'll address those as well when the time comes.

2. Pooh's Heffalump Movie (Director: Frank Nissen)

This is essentially Nissen's debut, unless you've seen the animated epic Man: The Polluter from 1973. He was a story artist for Disney's Dinosaur back in 2000. Pooh is based on the classic A.A. Milne stories, which like a lot of Disneyfied tales, has become more recognized as a Disney product than the author's.

I admit right off the bat that I am not the audience for Pooh's Heffalump Movie. It is a uniquely projectionist experience to watch a cartoon intended strictly for the under-5 set. My mindset during the viewing of this film was, "How do I make a meaningful assessment of this film when I already know this is going to bore me to tears?" I mean, it's not even made for family viewing in the sense that I can round up my 10 and 12-year-olds and take them to the theatre to have a little diversion for the afternoon, certainly not in the sense of The Incredibles. The market is extremely slim for this movie.

Which makes me wonder, why release it in theatres? A theatre is made for a wide audience of people to come and enjoy a film, it's structure is to accommodate a lot of people. While Pooh stands to have a decent audience in any one showing of this 68-minute film, I would imagine you have the same number of people walking into The Disney Store at any one time. To think, Disney at one time wanted to release Toy Story 2 straight-to-video, a movie that ended up grossing nearly $500 million worldwide before vacuuming up more cash with its eventual video release, yet a movie like Pooh is always geared for a short theatrical run before video.

The characters of Pooh, and they are classic characters: Pooh himself, Tigger (who got his own movie in 2000), Piglet (who got his in 2003), Eeyore, Rabbit, and Roo, all are awakened by a loud trampling and stupefied about the large elephant tracks in their backyard, and they begin a search for what they call, in Pooh-like fashion, a Heffalump. Roo, who starts his quest without the rest of the crew, finds a baby heffalump named Lumpy, and they become friends as they play with each other on the way back to Roo's house. It's all about dispelling prejudice about "different kinds," a subtle hint to young children as a primer for interaction with different races or any other person that can be considered "different" or "unusual."

I've read some other reviews on this, and it's mostly positive, focusing on the simple 2-D animation and wisely finding ways to slam the wise-ass Dreamworks pics in the process. The fact is, though, that more people have the capability to enjoy Shark Tale than this (which by the way, I do not recommend watching--just thought I'd take a chance to pound on this film some more). Some negative reviews mention this film is yet another ploy from Disney to sell a new plush toy in their Pooh-line, and I say, of course they are. Disney doesn't come out with anything without trying to sell action figures, promotions with happy meals, stickers, posters, plush toys, and the like, which brings me back to The Disney Store--why not just take care of all of your Pooh needs in one trip?


At 1/07/2006 10:08:00 AM, Blogger Crazy Dan said...

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