Lightyear (2022): Star Wars Meets a Family Friendly Interstellar in This Beautifully Animated Pixar Spinoff

“Lightyear” is directed by Angus MacLane, a Pixar insider who has helmed multiple animated shorts and made his feature-length debut with 2016’s “Finding Dory.” That feature, by the way, is frankly better than its Nemo-centric predecessor. There is no changing my mind. “Lightyear” stars Chris Evans as the titular space ranger, providing for a fresh take on the iconic role once helmed by Tim Allen (Last Man Standing, Home Improvement). Joining Evans is a cast including Keke Palmer (Scream Queens, Hustlers), Peter Sohn (Ratatouille, Monsters University), James Brolin (Westworld, The Amityville Horror), Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, Jojo Rabbit), Dale Soules (Orange is the New Black, The Messenger), Mary McDonald-Lewis (G.I. Joe, Archer), Efren Ramirez (Crank, Napoleon Dynamite), and Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Your Honor, The Wire) in a spinoff to the “Toy Story” universe… Sort of.

“Lightyear” is a film that Andy, a character known in “Toy Story” lore, loved as a child. It was his favorite movie, and therefore, we find out the reason why he has a Buzz Lightyear toy is because of this movie. Andy’s favorite movie, which is what we, the audience, are treated to, is about a young Buzz Lightyear trying to find a way to get his crew home after being stranded on a planet for an extended period. Turns out time is not the only enemy in Buzz’s path as he must survive against an army of robots commanded by Zurg.

Pixar is the pinnacle of animation today. I genuinely look forward to just about everything they do, even though most of their marketing campaigns do not sit well with me. But in the end, it is about the movie. Similar to the cliché saying that it is not about the outside, but the inside, Pixar proves that it is not all about the trailers for their films, which usually are unmemorable or do not prompt enough reason for me to watch them, but instead the films that were previously advertised, which are sometimes masterpieces. “Inside Out” to this day is one of the few movies that made my eyes water. “The Incredibles” is an action-packed, thrilling adventure that is secretly the best on-screen adaptation of “Fantastic Four.” “Cars” is fun, colorful, exciting, and has a wonderful soundtrack. The Pixar library is one of the best in film history, animated or not. This is why I was worried, years ago, when I found out we would be getting a “Toy Story 4.”

Despite my apprehension, “Toy Story 4” turned out to be an entertaining, joyful movie that not only presents itself as a surprisingly welcome addition to the franchise, but shows that Pixar can present some of the most realistic-looking animation ever put to screen. There is a scene with a cat from “Toy Story 4” that I continue to ponder over to this day…

Now we have “Lightyear,” which is not exactly a “Toy Story 5,” but a fictional universe within another fictional universe. I will admit, as desperate of an idea as it may sound, I like the concept. Because in our world, we have our beloved stories. In the science fiction genre, “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” and “Back to the Future” are some of the first examples that come to mind. This movie begs the question, supposing that a movie such as “Star Wars” does not exist in the “Toy Story” universe, “What is Andy’s ‘Star Wars’?”

Like the opening text suggests, this is that movie.

But just because Andy likes this movie, does not mean I will. So, what did I think of “Lightyear?”

You know how I mentioned that Pixar often flubs its trailers or makes them less appealing than others? Here is a crazy coincidence, I thought the trailers for “Lightyear” are easily the best Pixar has ever done. I thought their goal with the movie was clear, the footage we got with SOX was charming, and the space scenes looked gritty and eye-popping. Unfortunately, for Pixar standards, this is towards the lower tier.

Now, this is not as bad as “Luca,” but I thought Pixar’s previous outing, “Turning Red,” was a bit better. I think part of it has to do with the unique, dynamic nature of the film that I have not seen in any other Pixar story before. “Lightyear” feels like it blends the vibes of “Wall-E” with “Star Wars” and “Interstellar.” Some of you reading this likely know who I am, and think I am going crazy. I adore “Wall-E,” I love “Star Wars,” and if I could legally marry a movie, “Interstellar” would probably be getting the ring.

I will say the same thing about “Lightyear” that I said in regard to “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” a movie that heavily relies on inserting crossovers and references to the Warner Bros. library. One difference between “A New Legacy” and “Lightyear” is that “Lightyear” is a completely watchable, entertaining film. Imagine that! But one thing I will note about “Lightyear,” even though it is nowhere near as obvious, is that it seemingly pays tribute to other stories, most notably “Star Wars.” The relationship between Buzz Lightyear and Zurg in this film is almost reminiscent of Luke and Vader in “Star Wars” at times. Although that does make sense because if you watch “Toy Story 2,” there is a scene in that film with the toy versions of the characters that is almost done in the same style as a key scene from “The Empire Strikes Back.” With that in mind, I would rather watch Luke and Vader duke it out in “Empire” than watch any of the scenes between Buzz and Zurg in “Lightyear.”

Let’s talk about Chris Evans as Buzz Lightyear. I have mad respect for Evans as an actor, because in one moment he can carry a blockbuster in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and in the other, he can come off as the most delightfully charming of morons in “Knives Out.” Evans has unbelievable range as an actor, so I was excited to see what he could do as the Buzz Lightyear character. Yes, I know that this technically means that Tim Allen is not voicing Buzz Lightyear, but let me remind you that this is not the Buzz Lightyear toy and instead, a man that inspired the toy. Evans’s raspy voice fits the character and is proper enough to make him come off as this universe’s Han Solo. Again, this is basically “Star Wars.” This movie pictures Buzz as a determined, manly, roguish individual who will not stop until he “finishes the mission.”

As suggested in the title, “Lightyear” is essentially a family friendlier take on Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar.” While not as complex, the science fiction angle tends to border between realistic and fantastical. It’s believable, but it also makes us wonder what undiscovered portions of our own universe could look like. Plus, the concept of “Interstellar” involves one man trying to find a new home for humanity. The reverse is happening in “Lightyear” where one man tries to get people back to where they personally call home. And much like “Interstellar,” this movie has a somewhat mixed cast of sidekicks, including robots.

Once we get into the meat of the film, we meet a set of sidekicks who may talk a good game but when it comes to action, that is lackluster in comparison. I like this concept, partially because it is relatable, but I also dislike it. I will start with the dislikes first, because they are not as in depth.

The sidekick characters of “Lightyear” are at times, some of the most annoying, disposable characters ever created in Pixar history. As much as I like Taika Waititi, the writing for his character of Mo Morrison (top left) ranges from stupid to cringeworthy. Sometimes both. I have nothing against Waititi himself, he took the words written on the page and portrayed them as accurately as he could, but his character was written in such a way that could have made him a lovable idiot, but given the context of certain things, I do not think “lovable” would be the right adjective to use here. The movie “Lightyear” convinced Andy in the “Toy Story” universe to own a Buzz Lightyear toy. I can see why he probably begged his mom to buy a Buzz Lightyear toy instead of Mo Morrison or one of the other supporting characters. I have heard worse dialogue in my life, but here, it either feels cheap or annoying. Sometimes it works, but the times it did not work stuck out to me like a sore thumb.

With the negatives out of the way, I do want to talk about this idea that the movie goes for. “Lightyear” is a fun film, like many Pixar movies. But also like some Pixar movies, it could occasionally tug the heartstrings. There is a well-executed montage in this film that some would compare to the famous few minutes in “Up” where we witness the life of Carl and Ellie. It is some of the best editing I have seen all year. That is this film’s earliest example of showcasing the inevitability of failure. Many of us, including myself, have been through a portion of our lives where we question whether what we are doing is worth it. Whether we are good enough. Sometimes we do not have access to an opportunity, and in others, we do not even know where to start. I have taken one or two classes during my college years where these thoughts have come up.

Despite their slightly offish writing at times, I like the concept behind the characters of Izzy Hawthrone (bottom left), Mo Morrison, and Darby Steel (top right). They are flawed, but that is also what makes them work. Hawthorne spends much of the movie worrying about her legacy. How is she going to live up to her grandmother’s expectations? Mo Morrison never spills the beans on this, but he almost felt like this movie’s representation of the phrase “fake it until you make it.” You may not know something, you may not be good at something, but you might as well do that something until you know you can call yourself a master. Darby Steel’s main goal of the movie is to shave some time off of her sentence, and to do so, she needs to go on the mission with the rest of the crew. I like the idea of having these significantly unconfident, arguably incompetent, characters play major roles like the ones they do in the film. I just wish they were written or portrayed in a slightly less annoying manner. Although there was one recurring gag involving Mo Morrison with a pen that had its moments.

If I had to be honest, the best sidekick in the entire film is SOX (right), a robotic feline whose goal is to assist Lightyear with his various needs. This assertion should not come as much of a surprise. My favorite Pixar supporting character that comes to mind is also a common household pet, specifically Dug, the comic relief dog from “Up.” While SOX is no Dug, he does have his moments to shine in the spotlight. His writing feels logical for a typical robot character, but in robot speak, he somewhat reminded me of TARS from, again, “Interstellar.” While SOX in this case does not come with “humor settings,” he has some occasional lines that are not necessarily jokes that got a laugh out of me. It is nice when robots know what makes humans tick. He is wonderfully voiced by Peter Sohn, a talented voiceover artist who previously lent his utterances to Emile in “Ratatouille.”

This almost seems unfair, because “Lightyear” from start to finish, between the concept, execution, and everything in between, is practically a different movie than any of the “Toy Story” installments we have gotten. While “Lightyear” is by no means a bad film, it is no “Toy Story.” If I had to be real, I think even “Toy Story 4,” a film that like this one, I probably never asked for, is a better movie. I think the adventures of Buzz Lightyear, the toy, are more entertaining and joy-filled than “Lightyear.” It pains me to say that because this film reminded me of a couple great science fiction stories here and there, it had a couple halfway decent characters, the animation is some of the most stunning I have EVER seen. I think the best thing about this movie is that if you have young children and you want to give them a proper gateway into science fiction, “Lightyear” is a solid option before showing them movies like “Interstellar” or “Gravity.” But much like what I said with “The Empire Strikes Back,” I think I would rather watch the “Toy Story” films again on a Friday night before “Lightyear.”

I did see the film twice in the theater, but it was partially because I wanted to see how they handled the supersized 1.43:1 IMAX aspect ratio, which I can confirm made the film pop like few others. I liked the film enough to see it a second time for that, but maybe not a third time.

In the end, “Lightyear” is a decent science fiction movie, but for the standards of Pixar, I would put this with “Onward,” which is not a bad film. But for the standards of a studio as incredible as Pixar, that is not the best comparison to make. To shoot for “Onward” is not enough for them. Pixar genuinely makes some of the best animated movies, but this is not enough to join the greats. Although I will remind you, there are many studios out there, many filmmakers out there, that would kill to make a movie as good as a lower tier Pixar film. I still have yet to see a flat out awful movie from the studio. Hopefully that day never comes. I have faith. “Lightyear” is definitely worth seeing in the theater, especially in IMAX. The spectacle is insane. There are some truly colorful, vivid, detailed scenes that will definitely drop jaws. Although I left the film thinking to myself that I should probably rewatch a couple other films instead of this one. I am going to give “Lightyear” a 7/10.

“Lightyear” is now playing in theatres everywhere, and do yourself a favor, if there is a true IMAX theater near you, buy a ticket for “Lightyear” and go watch it in that theater. Major shoutout to the Jordan’s Furniture in Reading, Massachusetts and their amazing laser projection system for providing me with an epic movie experience. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, check out some of my other ones! This month I did reviews for “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “Hustle.” If you want to stick with the “Lightyear” theme, check out my thoughts for “Toy Story 4.” My thoughts have admittedly changed on the film a little since my review, but if you want to check out my first impression, here you go! If you are interested in long-form content, check out a recent five-thousand word post I did on why I cannot stop watching “Belle,” the new anime directed by Mamoru Hosoda. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Lightyear?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite science fiction movie of all time? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Why I Cannot Stop Watching BELLE (2021): An Article by an Anime-Know-It-Nothing

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Throughout my time writing for Scene Before, I have done several reviews that I feel proud of. This even includes earlier years when I continued to develop a writing style and focused maybe more than I should have on immersing the viewer into the review like I am on a camera. Although there are certain movies that I watched for Scene Before, looking back, where I probably should have reconsidered at least a portion of my opinion after writing over a thousand words about them. Some of these include “Suicide Squad,” “Blade Runner 2049,” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” If I were to rewrite my reviews for all of these films, I would add in certain points, redo points that I feel have changed, and perhaps alter the final score. But I am not going to talk about any of these films today. Instead, I am going to be reflecting on a movie I reviewed over the winter that has sort of met the same fate. While my opinions for “Blade Runner 2049” have only changed slightly, this post is about a movie I would claim has gone through a seismic shift kind of like “Suicide Squad.”

That movie by the way, is “Belle” directed by Mamoru Hosoda.

To sum up what has been going on in my life recently, this movie has taken up over ten hours of my screen time alone. Why? Because since its official Blu-ray release, I watched it for five nights in a row. I did watch other movies in addition to this one during the week, specifically “The Graduate,” which was utterly fantastic. Highly recommended. “Rampage,” which is… Well, it is what it is. And I also watched “Friends with Benefits” for the first time, which I thought was humorous and delightful. I watched “Belle” every night for five nights since I bought it on Blu-ray on Tuesday, May 17th. Why did I not watch it for six nights in a row? Because I was going on a short getaway on what could have been the sixth night, and I did not pack the movie to watch in my hotel room. I was more focused on possibly giving my money to Connecticut casinos more than anything else. Since getting back, I watched it two more nights in a row. That said, I cannot recall the last time I have bought a film on Blu-ray and watched it at this constant of a level. Naturally, I have no choice but to talk about it.

I want to make something clear, to say I have a working knowledge of Japanese anime would be like saying that since I am from Boston, I therefore consider the New York Yankees to be my favorite baseball team. “Belle” is one of the couple movies within the Japanese anime medium that I have fully watched. The other one that comes to mind is “Ghost in the Shell.” I believe I also remember seeing “Howl’s Moving Castle” somewhere around a decade ago. That was before I knew what anime happened to be by definition. And I will be real with you, even though I did not mind “Ghost in the Shell,” which I first watched at the age of 17, it did not emit a spark inside me to explore more of what anime has to offer. “Belle” on the other hand, did so dramatically. Although after I watched “Belle” for the first time, I did start watching Adult Swim’s “Blade Runner: Black Lotus,” which technically is an anime series. So since I watched “Belle,” I have gone a tad deeper into the genre, but after many countless revisits to the film “Belle,” I want more anime in my life. With that said, I want to talk about why “Belle” means so much to me as someone who has spent over half of their life on the Internet, including a portion where social media has practically taken over my life in more ways than one. I will let you know, while this is not a full spoiler discussion, I am going to do my best to not ruin the whole the movie, there will be points where I do dive deep into key characters or plot points. So if that is a problem, leave this post now, go watch “Belle,” and come back when you are done. I will be waiting. That said, let’s dive into the many reasons why I cannot stop watching “Belle.”

A MATURE REINVENTION

When I originally reviewed “Belle” for this blog, I compared it to “Beauty and the Beast” because first off, the title character is literally named Belle, well, kind of. Also, much of the movie revolves around her connection to someone who is literally referred to as a Beast. If that is not enough, there is a scene in the film that is not a complete ripoff, but heavily pays homage to Disney’s 1991 “Beauty and the Beast,” which Hosoda himself claims to adore, as the two recently mentioned characters come together in a scene where they slow dance and embrace each other in a large castle. My other claim I made during my review is that this film could potentially become less of a timeless piece than others because of how reminiscent it is of the “Beauty and the Beast” tale. Knowing what I know about “Belle,” the story threads are not quite one in the same. There are some similarities, especially in the one scene where Belle and the Beast dance together, but “Belle” is its own thing. “Beauty and the Beast,” at its core, is more of a love tale than anything else. “Belle” is a mix of cyberpunk, drama, and adventure.

I often talk about the animation genre and how much I appreciate when it understands what I consider to be the assignment. Because a lot of animations are made for kids, and obviously there is content out there that you can tell is specifically made for children, not for adults at all. There is content that is obviously made with the intention of educating kids. This has been revealed with television content like “Dora the Explorer.” But at the same time, there have been multiple instances where we get movies that are meant to give families an excuse to entertain their kids, but not the adults bringing the kids. This is what Pixar has evidently understood with every one of their movies. They do not treat them as children’s fare. There’s a difference between a film that kids can enjoy, and a film that families can enjoy. Even with a more ridiculous script like “Cars 2” or an occasional fart joke from movies like “Incredibles 2,” those movies are ones I continue to watch as an adult because it understands that if the movie is purely made to entertain kids, then it does not have staying power. “Inside Out” is a movie that I think could entertain children if you sat them in front of the television, but as an adult, I am watching the movie and feeling an appreciation for how it handles emotions and growth during adolescence. These are themes and ideas that can connect to anyone from a variety of backgrounds, ages, and life stories.

“Belle,” much like the many Pixar movies I have watched over the years, refuses to treat its audience like they are idiots. In fact, I think in some cases, it tries even harder to avoid doing so. There’s no corny humor, you have incredibly humanized and relatable storylines, and there are also scenes that feel more like they are out of a live-action script than an animated script. There is one moment in a train station where a few characters meet and there are these long pauses between lines that give the audience a moment to breathe, while also letting the characters think for themselves. I occasionally watch Animation Domination cartoons like “Bob’s Burgers” and “Family Guy” and often notice that in their scripts, everything is mile a minute, which can work by keeping the audience on their toes, but it also destroys hints of realism. Granted, it is an animation, which by definition, should be less realistic than live-action, but I also think that sometimes even in animations, you should have some degree of verisimilitude to remind your audience that your world has rules. Not everything has to be within the confines of Murphy’s Law.

A HILARLIOUSLY ACCURATE LOOK AT THE INTERNET, CELEBRITY INFLUENCERS, AND FAN CULTURE

I honestly think “Belle” could not have come out at a better time when it did. The Internet and social media are still young, so who knows how things will turn out in a hundred years, but “Belle” seems to paint an attractive picture of what those two things could look like, while also inserting satire on our modern Internet behavior. Granted, this movie is on the family friendly side, therefore it never dives into concepts like pornography or the darker sides of dating sites like Tinder, although romance is prominent in the film, coincidentally. But I found much of “Belle’s” script unapologetically reflective of how the Internet tends to work. If anything, it is a bang on the money encapsulation of what could equate to cancel culture. Case and point, Peggie Sue.

The role Peggie Sue plays in “Belle” is minimal, but effective and important in every single way. We get our first glimpse of her when the main protagonist, Suzu, has a hesitancy to sing at a party, despite being pressured by her peers. The party space is accompanied with a flat screen television complete with Peggie Sue singing a pop song, perhaps in the form of an expensive music video or a concert. This happens before Suzu enters U and to her surprise, belts out a song with fluency and power. When Suzu, or in this case, her avatar, becomes increasingly noticed by U’s userbase, Peggie Sue herself acknowledges this and does not see anything special in the rising star. At one point, she lashes out against Belle’s popularity on a giant screen, which instantly receives tons of backlash and practically gets her cancelled. There are definitely more dangerous things she could have said. She could have mocked a disability. She could have announced she was giving money to a hate group. She could have said the n-word. But even so, this movie presents an example of the classic “think before you post” scenario, which I think many users, including myself, have probably run into at one point or another through our times on the Internet. Whether we did it ourselves, we observed such an action through someone we know, or some celebrity. But at the same time, this movie tells its audience that even if you say stupid things, it does not mean you cannot be redeemed. You can still be a decent person. There is a scene at the end of the film involving said character where we reveal more about her that brings her down to Earth where such a thing comes into play. It reminds us that we are human and we can take our mistakes and turn them around, learn from them essentially. And if you learn more about someone, sometimes it will get you to understand them, possibly admire them.

Peggie Sue is not the only prominent voice speaking out against Suzu as she rises, because when she starts singing and getting all these followers, we see that she makes a splash. It looks like Suzu, or her avatar, Bell, which is what Suzu means in English, has all the support and fans she could want. But as soon as we are done hearing all the positive feedback, Sue lets her negative thoughts out to the world, therefore spawning even more negative thoughts from ordinary people. They either do not like her voice, they think the songs are lackluster, or she is simply performing for the likes. In a case like this, it takes one higher power to build a following.

FORESEEABLE LOOK AT THE FUTURE, WHILE ALSO FOCUSING ON THE PRESENT

Speaking of Suzu, the main journey of “Belle” is Suzu’s dive into U, which I claim is a sexier version of what Meta is trying to achieve. If anything, it’s like the OASIS from “Ready Player One,” but without extreme emphasis on currency and less reliance on preexisting properties from “Batman” to “Halo.” The world of U is much different from our reality given how it is more colorful, physics are almost ignored altogether, and as the movie reveals, the platform’s trademark is that it reveals a hidden strength of each user. In the beginning of the film, we see that despite Suzu having a history with music, she sometimes struggles when it comes to singing. So of course, when we see Belle enter U, the first thing she does is, to her shock, utter the lyrics of “Gales of Song,” one of the film’s few enchanting originals. We will dive more into those in a second. Suzu’s U debut, as previously mentioned, is met with mixed reception upon first glance, half of the people passing by like her. Half do not. But this is also reflective of several music artists of today where their haters are just as prominent as their fans. You may notice this with artists like Justin Bieber or Kanye West. This also brings up a positive message when Suzu notices she has an influx of followers. When Suzu’s friend, Hiroka Betsuyaku, or Hiro for short, the one who suggested that she should join U in the first place, reminds Suzu that a good portion of the millions of people who have seen her through the platform admire her, she should not forget that. She should not let the hate, trolling, and doubt get to her.

What I love about this movie so much is that in today’s mixed Internet culture, “Belle” is a movie that reminds its audience that the Internet, despite its occasional thorns, can also be a rose of positivity. The Internet has helped me in various ways by letting me discover that I am not alone with some of my weird hobbies like riding elevators. Social media has spawned some of my best companionships. I even met a couple of friends I made on social media in real life, either through chance or by arrangement. I have gained valuable friendships through my time in high school, but I feel like my friendships through social media have helped me define who I am today more than almost any other friendship I have experienced.

Despite taking place in what I would assume happens to be present day, “Belle” also spawns a ton of questions about social media’s future, because it is revealed that in the world of U, you cannot have more than one avatar. You can alter your avatar as we notice Belle wears different outfits at various points of the story, but that avatar is the only one you have. I have gone on YouTube and noticed some people have more than one account, or sometimes on sites like Twitter, people will create different accounts for different aspects of their personality. Will we be seeing less of that if we get closer to U being a reality? That is a thought provoking question if you ask me. This film also reveals that there is still a culture of trolling on the Internet, with the Dragon and Peggie Sue being a couple of the film’s examples if you will. But one thing the film never dives into all that much is bots. The closest thing I can note that U has to bots is the Dragon’s AIs, but that’s about it. My question is, how “bot-proof” is U? Even when there are trolls in U, there is often a soul behind the one doing the trolling. Although there is probably a good reason why bots never appear in U, because the idea of U involves the user immersing themselves by activating a specific device that is meant to project themselves into U, and I am not just talking about their phone. Every U user attaches buds to their ears, bringing them into the digital landscape as their respective avatar. This is done through body-sharing technology, where the user’s biometric information is interlinked with their avatar. And while there are reflective physical traits that are represented in Suzu’s avatar, most specifically freckles, the U platform tends to provide an enhancement, a level up if you will, of one’s mentality, outlook, or experiences. In Suzu’s case, she lost her mom at a young age, which is a fraction of why she is a shadow amongst her peers. In addition, her singing skills are not up to the par she would prefer. This is why she has increased confidence and singing abilities upon entering U.

COMPELLING, POWERFUL ORIGINAL SONGS

And when you have a film like this that heavily revolves around music, chances are that the songs have to be good, otherwise the film would not be as convincing or effective. “Belle” has a few originals, all of which have their own style. The film’s main theme, U, has an incredibly poppy, upbeat, and sexy feel to it to the point where it belongs on a top 40 playlist, but feels different enough that it is not annoying. It is the kind of song you would want to hear when walking into a large nightclub. It is a perfect main theme for the film because it basically just says, “Come join U! We’re all happy here and everyone is having a good time!” It also shows how one platform can change your life in an instant. Much like how Suzu has gone from a nobody to a U diva, we have seen tons of unexpected personalities on platforms like YouTube or TikTok over the years.

“So, linе up, the party’s over here
Come one, come all, jump into the fire
Step up, we are whatever we wanna be
We are free, that’s all we desire
When you pass through the veil of fantasy
There’s a world with a rhythm for you and me.”

At the same time though, it is a perfect metaphor for the Internet itself. There is a lyric in the song, specifically “I wanna know who you are, I wanna know it all,” which is not only reflective of the developed mystery behind Belle’s identity, but it reminds me of many of my relationships on the Internet. I feel like through the Internet I get to know a certain version of a person, but I would secretly love to meet them in real life to get to know the real them.

When Suzu enters U, she first sings a piece titled Gales of Song, which compared to the film’s previously mentioned main theme, perhaps relies significantly less on lyrics. Gales of Song is perfectly executed when first introduced because it is simple enough, and has enough pauses to allow Suzu to adapt to her avatar. It is like when you get inside a car for the first time and you are learning how to drive. It takes Suzu a second to understand all the mechanics, but when she starts getting the hang of things, that is when she gets increased attention from U’s userbase, both positive and negative. Lend Me Your Voice is a song that could have gone wrong because of how the scene it links to sort of pays homage to Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” but the orchestral power of the song hits hard, and the lyrics are occasionally on the verge of heart-wrenching. And speaking of heart-wrenching, don’t even get me started on the film’s longest and perhaps most important song, A Million Miles Away, which I previously awarded the Jackoff for Best Original Song during this year’s ceremony. To this day, it is one of the only songs I have heard to make me wipe tears from my face because when you watch the movie, it is THAT powerful.

That last song goes to show this film’s power of silence, because some of its best moments are simply when there is little to no dialogue, we are just watching people doing things. When we first see Suzu and her mother early on in the film, there is this wonderfully edited montage of the two doing things together, which shows Suzu developing a knack for music. There is no spoken dialogue, just a soft variant of A Million Miles Away. I even go back to the moments where characters have specific pauses while talking, allowing for some genuine lifelike reactions. The scene in the train station with a few core characters, Suzu included, comes to mind. But even within these lifelike reactions, we see some heightened emotions or cues that allow animation to shine. I will not go into much detail, but this movie is not short on blushed cheeks or visible tears.

And I am constantly talking about the film’s lyrical songs for good reason, but I should also note that the official score for “Belle” contains one of the best utilizations of stringed instruments I have EVER heard.

STUNNING CINEMATOGRAPHY, ANIMATION

Technically speaking, “Belle” is literally what the name means, beautiful. Many of the film’s wides are ingrained in my memory. The world of U is a place I could imagine myself diving into in the future. Belle’s outfits in U are astoundingly eye-popping. As depressing as the real world may be in comparison, this film has some gorgeously drawn locations. It kind of makes me want to travel to rural Japan to see what it is actually like. My favorite shot in the film however, if not one of my favorite shots, is probably set in U, when we see a closeup of Suzu singing A Million Miles Away, staring into the distance when her surroundings turn dark. It is the simplest shot of all time, but for some reason, Suzu’s concentration on what lies ahead is evident. My reason for liking this shot is potentially because of a certain context, but as much as I may be revealing about this film, there are some things I would rather keep hidden, such as moments of the scene where said shot takes place.

RELATABLE PROTAGONIST

To me, one of the most visible reasons why I adore “Belle” so much is the same basis behind why I loved another recent film, “CODA,” from the moment I saw it. They are two completely different films by several means, and in various ways, their protagonists are significantly unalike. For example, Suzu doesn’t have any deaf family members or friends, as far as we know. And “CODA’s” protagonist, Ruby Rossi, still communicates with her parents on a regular basis. Her mother is still alive, and even though the movie shows some occasional resistance between her parental relationships, Ruby has a steady connection with her father. “Belle” is a movie that allows its main hero to show off what makes them ordinary, and therefore have that mundaneness make them extraordinary. This is especially true in the climax of the film when Suzu sings A Million Miles Away. We learn more about what this song is, and that added dose made the scene go from great to… not to continue the overuse of this word, cinema. Simultaneously, Suzu has millions of followers on U, she barely talks to her dad anymore, and she spends several scenes with a talking dragon. There are some definite differences between the two protagonists, but at the end of the day, Suzu’s normality, what makes her human, what makes Suzu, quite literally Suzu, allows her to persevere later in the film’s runtime. This also highlights a notable trait about the Internet. And this trait is especially true when it comes to the Beast, as many characters have questions about his identity. That trait being how not everyone really knows who you are on the Internet. We constantly build these images of people and what we think they are like. Maybe they are incredibly wealthy. Maybe they are a predator. Maybe they are younger than they advertise themselves to be. We do not know everything about everyone. This is why sometimes I may do research on certain people before talking to them, or if there is a public figure on social media, I make an effort to ensure that they are verified.

Some of my favorite movies in recent years have been animated, because despite their otherworldly nature, they have an attractive down to earth element that sometimes is not as effective in live-action. If we are not talking about “Belle,” the most effective example that comes to mind is “Over the Moon,” which is currently on Netflix. The reason why I found that movie down to earth despite mostly taking place in space is because it is a movie I think my 13, 14, 15-year-old self would have needed to watch at those specific ages. Because I was going through a tough time where my parents were no longer in love, and there were specific story elements or beats that reminded me of that time and felt completely relatable. In the same way, maybe not as much, but nevertheless, I think “Belle” is a movie I would have shown to my 15, 16-year-old self, because I was new to social media at the time. I had an idea of how it worked, but I did not realize how addicted I may have been to it. Sure, there were many positives to it like meeting new people, finding new friends, joining a community. But I also did not realize how much I cared about followers. I cared more than I should have. I thought I was cool when in reality I may have just been desperate for attention. And I am not saying that it is a bad thing to have tons of followers, but I feel like this movie could have been a reminder to myself that maybe I should not have tried as hard to worry about getting followers. It’s like the famous quote in “Field of Dreams,” “If you build it, they will come.” In the same way, Suzu started out as a nobody, and one unexpected turn of events turned her into a somebody, even if that somebody was an alternate version of her.

I think “Belle” is a film that paints a picture of the Internet and shows its strengths. Because by the end of the film, it allows people to come together in a way that delivers a positive impact. It shows how the Internet can change people’s lives and make them better despite some occasional toxicity on a number of sides.

POSSIBLE IMPERFECTIONS WITHIN A FLAWED MASTERPIECE

I think if there are any flaws with “Belle,” it would be three things, but they do not affect my overall enjoyment of the film. There are such things as flawed masterpieces. “Risky Business” is one of my favorite films of all time, but I will tell you that the last scene feels incredibly out of place. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is one of my favorite science fiction films of the past decade, but even I will admit that the film owes its success to the original installment it tends to copy. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is one of the most beautifully violent, outrageously balls to the wall movies I have ever watched, but you could quite literally remove Margot Robbie’s character from the script and have little to no effect on the overall plot. That said, let’s dive into my few issues with “Belle,” if you want to call them that. Because in some cases, I also claim they do not bother me that much.

The first issue I have is specifically with the English dub. I do not speak Japanese, but it sounded fine on the Japanese version. When I watched this film at home a few times in English, there was one key line from Justin, or Justian if you watched the Japanese version, it sounded incredibly important, but much of what he said was muffled over all of the music. It was GREAT music, but nevertheless. Who directed this scene? Christopher Nolan?! For all I know, it could be my television, but the sound on it has been pretty good by itself over the years without any external speakers or sound bars, so who knows? The second flaw, and this is perhaps a more important issue that could also be seen as a strength, I think the relationship between Suzu and her father was kind of surface level. Not much was shown to reveal their distance. I think it almost makes me forget sometimes that they are drift apart, mainly because it is such a small part of this two hour movie. But at the same time, you could make an argument that such a thing was kind of the point. The movie wants you to realize that these two individuals barely talk to each other despite living together. And in a way, the movie successfully did that. So that is a tossup. The other, flaw, if you will, is not something that bothered me specifically, but I could see it bothering other people. Not that I have seen anyone bringing it up. There is a character in the film by the name of Shinobu, and despite his best intentions, there are a couple scenes where his connection to Suzu could come off as maybe closer than it should. From his eyes, he kind of sees himself as someone who tries to protect Suzu. This is something he has done for her since her mom died. It’s a friendly gesture, but it could also be overprotective. In a way, since Suzu’s mom died, Shinobu filled said mother’s shoes from time to time. The movie does address this though, and it shows that Suzu realizes this and at one point refuses to let this get in her way. So I would not consider it a big deal, but having seen one or two moments in the film, I could see certain viewers having a particular perception of Shinobu’s character or his connection to Suzu that maybe I did not. The movie is bound to age well if you ask me despite its influence from “Beauty and the Beast,” but I will remind you, this film is not a ripoff of a classic tale, if anything it is a reinvention. It is not a love story, it is a cautionary human drama that warns its viewers to be careful in regard to what they see, do, and say on the Internet. Or in some cases, in real life.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I highly recommend “Belle” to almost anyone, and I kind of mean that because anime was never my genre. I have a history of enjoying animated content, but not much from Japan. Now that I have seen this movie, it has opened my eyes to more of what Japan has to offer, including Mamoru Hosoda’s library, which I hear is incredible. I want to go ahead and check out some of his other movies. This is one of the few animated movies I have seen that I feel like is specifically not made for children. I think kids should watch it if the chance comes around, I think it is an important movie that everyone should watch at least one point in their life, especially now with the Metaverse expanding more than ever. The songs are catchy, well-written, and obnoxiously powerful. I do not often cry during movies, but the scene with A Million Miles Away is a literal tearjerker, so if you cry during movies, prepare yourself. I said that this is not a redo of my review, but if it were, I would be giving the movie a 10/10, because each time I watch the film, the more I realize I like it. I have gotten completely attached to Suzu as a character even though we have our differences. She is a perfect protagonist for this world, and this movie took her in a direction that enhanced its lesson to the audience. Just because someone is popular, it does not mean that they are a narcissist. It does not mean that they are the kind of person some would make them out to be. Heck, I did not even talk about Ruka in this post and that is a whole other topic I could have gotten into. And instead of explaining everything about Ruka, I will let you see for yourself. Because “Belle” is now available on various home video formats including DVD and Blu-ray, if you have not gotten a chance to watch “Belle,” find a chance as soon as possible, because it is worth your time. It is one of my favorite animated movies, and with enough rewatches, it could potentially be in the conversation for one of my favorite movies period.

Thanks for reading this post! If you like this post, be sure to check out some of my other ones, including several of my reviews. One of my reviews is for the new Nicolas Cage film, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” or you could even read my most recent review, which is for “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” which is officially in theaters as of this weekend. If you want to see more non-review posts, please check out my response to movie theaters, and why I think they should play fewer trailers before the feature presentation. To find out my first impression of “Belle,” you can read my review that I posted in January! Hope you like it! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account, also check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, like I asked in my review, did you see “Belle?” What did you think about it? Also, I want to ask a question for the anime fans reading this, because I want to dive further into the genre. What anime products do you recommend? Let me know, because I am always looking for suggestions! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Bad Guys (2022): A Nonsensical, But Surprisingly Entertaining Heist Animation

“The Bad Guys” is directed by Pierre Perifel, who has helped animate several DreamWorks films including “Monsters vs. Aliens,” “Shrek Forever After,” and “Rise of the Guardians.” This film stars Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Moon), Marc Maron (GLOW, Joker), Awkwafina (Raya and the Last Dragon, Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens), Craig Robinson (The Cleveland Show, The Office), Anthony Ramos (A Star is Born, In the Heights), Richard Ayoade (The IT Crowd, The Watch), Zazie Beatz (Atlanta, Deadpool 2), Alex Borstein (Family Guy, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), and Lilly Singh (A Little Late with Lilly Singh, Bad Moms). This film is based on a children’s graphic novel series by Aaron Blabey and follows a group of varying creatures who all commit crimes together. In an attempt to successfully continue their criminal activities and complete their mission, they attempt to become “good,” which given their long status of being hated or feared, is a bit of challenge on a number of ends.

I first saw a trailer for “The Bad Guys” back towards the tail end of 2021, and I thought it looked like another example of why people often stereotype animated movies as “kid movies,” because this movie did not look like it was made for me. Maybe if I were eight, I would have been sold. Not today. That said, I did go see this film given how there was a free screening for it over Easter weekend. So I did have time to watch it. But I cannot say I had the motivation.

Now, I want to make something clear, one of my least favorite critiques regarding family films is that the movie at hand is dumb, there are moments that do not add up, but “the kids will like it.” While that MAY be true, I also want to note that as I look back on my childhood, there are select movies that I STILL watch to this day that were intended for the family demographic because of how they have treated me like I was intelligent back then and continue to do so today. Pixar is honestly the king of this classification with films like “The Incredibles” and “Up.” I will add that “Lightyear” looks like it is going to continue that tradition when it releases in June. There are a few DreamWorks films from my childhood like “Kung Fu Panda” or “How to Train Your Dragon” that manage to maintain a childlike spirit but I also would not mind popping in again as an adult if I get the chance. Although I will say I have probably watched “Bee Movie” more than some would like to admit as a kid and have not done so since I was 13. Even for the memes. “The Bad Guys” came off as a disposable family film with cheap comedy gags. I did not think I would particularly like it.

Now that I have seen the film, it is kind of that… Except that I did walk out thinking that I saw something that technically qualified as… Well, good!

In addition to some cheap comedy attempts that the trailer seems to promise, there are some hints of cleverness in between. This movie has one of the funniest lines I have heard from a children’s film in recent memory. I won’t quote it verbatim, but one of the best moments of the film is when we see the Big Bad Wolf and Mr. Snake talking to each other, when all of sudden, Snake spits out a clock, and reminds Wolf of the time, saying that it is “the moment our friendship died.” I imagine this was written as a throwaway line, but for some reason it just hit me the right way.

The voice cast is actually rather impressive from Sam Rockwell as Wolf, Marc Maron as Snake, Awkwafina as Tarantula… Yeah, some of these names are QUITE generic… But ya know. It is not entirely the movie’s fault. It is based on a book. If anything, blame the book. I dunno… But still, generic names! Either way, each actor finds a way to swimmingly match their voice to each role. I almost cannot see anyone else voicing Wolf at this point. The only other voice I could see is maybe Matthew McConaughey, but given how he’s already got a major role in “Sing” and a bit of an accent, I think that Rockwell is a better choice. Awkwafina has a swagger to her voice that is perfectly sprinkled into her role of Tarantula, and to my surprise, Craig Robinson had an over the top attitude to the character of Shark that was finely executed. Anthony Ramos mixed okay with his character of Piranha, but I think he is an element of the film that relies on tired gags maybe a little too much.

My favorite voices of the film come from characters who are not quite in the forefront. First off, we have an over the top police chief who goes by the name Misty Luggins. Her aspirations are to capture the Bad Guys for good. As the movie progresses she becomes funnier and funnier, her one-dimensionality is honestly her strength. If anything, she kind of reminded me of the old lady from the “Madagascar” movies who refers to Alex the Lion as a “bad kitty,” only in this case, Luggins seems a tad more civilized. She just seems so passionate about reaching her goals, and even though she technically was on what this movie refers to as its antagonistic side, part of me could not help but root for her. I was also delighted to find out that she was voiced by Alex Borstein of “Family Guy” fame.

Also joining the cast is British comedian Richard Ayoade, who in this film plays a character by the name of Professor Marmalade. I love this character. Professor Marmalade is pretty much everything that the Bad Guys are not. While the Bad Guys are busy hacking, robbing, taking from innocent people, Marmalade on the other hand is quite benevolent, rather charitable. He has a history of guinea pig philanthropy and every moment of his presence is one to savor. Ayoade is perfect casting for this role because of the pure distinctness of his voice that has the right amount of innocence, kindness, possibly even geekiness. At first I thought this was Daniel Radcliffe, because when I first heard Professor Marmalade talk I was getting Harry Potter vibes. But I heard his voice more and more, and one, recognized it, and two, adored it. If Sam Rockwell was solid casting for Wolf, then Richard Ayoade is gargantuanly perfect casting for Professor Marmalade. Two thumbs up.

“The Bad Guys” is a well-voiced, not to mention well-animated little film. This film has a distinct, quick, almost comic book-like style that works for it. That said, here is my big problem. Humans.

Humans are a problem. War, global warming, lust, capitalism. Humans are a disaster and I have no problem in saying that. Humans are not perfect, and speaking of imperfections, there are so many humans in this film that it makes me, the Movie Reviewing Moron, wonder… HOW ARE THESE BAD GUYS GETTING AWAY WITH ALL THIS STUFF?!

Genuine question. How many sharks are there in this universe? Also, how many of them speak English?! This movie establishes that Mr. Shark is a master of disguise. How on earth do more people not catch him committing crimes or pulling off heists? I don’t buy any of this! This universe almost establishes that these talking animals are almost one of a kind. I would like to know how they continue to blend in a world that is implied to be dominated by humans, kind of like ours. Yeah, there are other creatures too, but they supposedly are few and far between unless maybe you’re a guinea pig. I think if you want a more practical universe, I would not say to take the humans out entirely. But maybe replace some of the ordinary citizens with other animal types. Maybe apes or tigers or cheetahs. If this movie looked something more like “Zootopia” or “Sing,” I’d buy it more. But it’s less believable because it sort of traces back to our reality despite some slight changes here and there.

This goes back to what I said about kids movies treating its audience like they’re intelligent. Now, I am in my 20s, so therefore I do not have the brain of a child, even though I do admittedly sometimes act like one. But the movie still entertained me despite its noticeable flaws, therefore even though I think this is something that should have been fixed before release, it does not exactly take away from the fun I had watching this movie. I get why they made the main characters different creatures. It helps by highlighting their distinctiveness, and may make the movie more attractive and marketable for younger viewers. But if you are gonna go this way, you might as well go all the way. Keep all of the main creatures as they are, but add a few other altering creatures into the background for a change. Just a suggestion. It’s a pretty big suggestion, not afraid to admit it, but nevertheless. Say what you want about all these superhero movies from Marvel and DC having characters with impractical abilities. Here’s the thing about Spider-Man. Let’s use Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man as an example. Sure, maybe in reality there is no one out there that can shoot webs out of their wrists. But the movie’s environment, vibe, characters, actions, everything within that first “Spider-Man” movie from 2002 felt like it was carefully constructed to make me believe that a teenager could live a life swinging around New York City. “The Bad Guys” fails on that goal because of the characters and environment that surround the ones in the title. Am I nitpicking? You could make the argument that I am. But I only say this because I have to be honest in my thoughts and remind those who I am sharing my thoughts with that I am trying to help. I am making suggestions based on my experience. That said, I liked the movie. I’d still give it a watch.

In the end, “The Bad Guys” is a good time even though I have a tendency to rip it apart somewhat. Would I want a sequel to this movie? I don’t think so, but I think this a fine hour and a half to turn off your brain, or if you are me, almost turn off your brain. This is not going to win Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, in fact I think if you want a better family movie to watch with the kids, “Turning Red” would be better for certain audiences. I think if you have younger kids “The Bad Guys” might be better, but it’s not a better movie. But as an adult, I DID laugh quite a bit, and I clapped at the end. There’s also some cool action, look forward to it if that’s your thing. I’m going to give “The Bad Guys” a somewhat generous 6/10.

“The Bad Guys” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! I’ve got a few reviews coming soon between “The Northman,” “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” Look forward to those! If you want to see more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Bad Guys?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie that you enjoyed as a kid that does not hold up as an adult? For me, that would have to be the live-action “Alvin and the Chipmunks” films. What about you? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022): Full of Exciting Video Game-Like Action, and Minimal Video Game-Like Story

“Sonic the Hedgehog 2” is directed by Jeff Fowler, who also directed the 2020 “Sonic the Hedgehog” film. This film stars Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation, BoJack Horseman), James Marsden (Westworld, Hop), Tika Sumpter (Ride Along, The Old Man and the Gun), Natasha Rothwell (The White Lotus, Insecure), Adam Pally (Dirty Grandpa, Iron Man 3), Shemar Moore (S.W.A.T., Criminal Minds), Colleen O’Shaughnessey (Danny Phantom, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes), Lee Majdoub (The 100, Supernatural), Idris Elba (The Suicide Squad, Pacific Rim), and Jim Carrey (Batman Forever, The Mask). This film follows Sonic, who as of the last movie has trapped Doctor Robotnik in a world filled with nothing except mushrooms. However, Robotnik escapes from “The Mushroom Planet” and attempts to possess the Master Emerald, which would allow him to control the world at his will. Now, it is up to Sonic, and his new sidekick Tails to defend civilization and stop Robotnik, who has joined forces with Knuckles the Echidna, from changing reality for the worse.

There was a saying not too long ago that “video game movies suck,” and I can attest to that. A couple of my least favorite films ever, “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” and “Super Mario Bros.” are based on video games. They are poorly written, poorly acted, and poorly executed. But I must say that the first “Sonic the Hedgehog” maintains the throne for the best video game movie ever made, not that this is a high mountain to climb, but still, I liked the movie. When I wrote my review a couple of years ago, one of my immediate thoughts was, “I want a sequel,” because the movie ends in such a way that is satisfying, but also leaves enough open to make you want more. I frankly did not expect that with the first “Sonic,” but if that first movie were not good, I probably would not have been as excited for this movie as I was before I went in.

Part of me wonders if we would even have this movie if it were not for people on the Internet, perhaps justifiably, expressing their rage over the design of Sonic, because before the first movie came out, and before Paramount went back and spent money on redesigning the character, he did look butt ugly for an adaptation, but I also was conflicted as to whether they were going for a grittier, grounded story. Turns out they were not, the movie almost felt like a Saturday morning cartoon, but that is also why in the end, I am glad they went back to redesigning it. And as a result, I think we found a look that not just matches the first movie, but also its sequel, which also maintains this Saturday morning cartoon vibe from start to finish.

The heart of the first movie for me was the unexpected bond between Sonic and Tom Wachowski, which given cinematic history with movies like 2011’s “The Smurfs,” could have gone completely sideways. By the end of the movie, the two felt like genuine pals, and that is hard to do with a human and CGI hedgehog, so credit where it is due. In this movie, that is kind of replaced, because Tails ends up being Sonic’s sidekick for most of the picture. In fact, the formula the two seem to have together feels almost reminiscent of the first movie, even to the point where the film excuses itself to blast a once popular top 40 song that may have been slightly overplayed. Not Crush 40, no no no. Top 40. “Live and Learn” is not in the movie, sorry for spoiling in advance for those who really did not want to know.

While Tails serves his part in the movie, the movie also finds a reason to implement Tom Wachowski into the mix, but this allows for a completely separate subplot to commence… (sigh) …The goddamn wedding.

I think “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” can easily be watched at any age. I think if you are five, you’re fine. And if you’re ninety, you’re nifty. But let’s be real, some could argue that “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” is made for children to enjoy. This is not a bad thing, I do not mind children’s content, but I also prefer that children receive content that does not insult their intelligence. The first movie, while not quite as mature as what we have gotten from Pixar over the years, has a certain flair to it that makes you feel like a kid again. This sequel is consistent in that way. But one consistency that does not exist from one film to the next is the pacing. The first film is extremely tight in its 99 minute story, but this film is 23 minutes longer, and therefore, it suffers from an obnoxious and almost unnecessary subplot at a wedding. Granted, one story is means to an end where it lines up with another, but the journey to get from one place to another in the wedding was probably the most boring segment of the film. And I will add, the one moment where everything lines up makes absolutely no sense. Going back to what I said, I do not mind children’s content, but I want it to treat its audience as if they were smart. This does not. You know your “moment” is bad when you have the characters spinning their heads and then one person realizes that “the Olive Garden guy” from the first movie is here to spew out another advertisement for the company.

By the way, Olive Garden kinda sucks. I said it.

The first movie, while definitely not my favorite of the year, was fairly palatable because of a narrative that is as quick as its titular hedgehog. This movie relies way too much on over the top gags that feel tired by the end. That is not to say the movie does not have its occasional laugh, but let’s just say that the writing for Dr. Robotnik, who is marvelously portrayed by Jim Carrey, is not as much of a highlight as it was in the predecessor.

Now I do want to be clear, I liked Dr. Robotnik in this film, but the first film gave us a perfect blend of Jim Carrey’s zaniness mashed together with some of the best screenwriting I have witnessed for a villain in a children’s film. Robotnik is written similarly to how he is presented in the original film, but the original film takes the cake for perhaps a larger collection of memorable lines and moments. NOTHING beats the scene where Sonic sneaks up to Tom and Robotnik, exclaims to Robotnik not to hurt Tom, and Robotnik emits the most obnoxious, cartoon-like scream I have heard in a long time. I cannot remember a single line in this sequel that was “awful,” but I also cannot recall one line in the film that was on the level of the original. Not offensive, but also not as good.

In fact, I would like to go back to the compliment I gave this film about it making you feel like a kid again. I think that is a compliment I can give to certain comic book movies that have come out in recent years. Those films, while definitely mature, make me feel young, and I always love to maintain a youthful spirit. And there were moments during my theater experience where instead of a bunch of manchildren, including myself, admired everything on screen and uttered sounds of excitement, actual children got to be similarly wowed during key moments that trigger such immediate reactions. This is why THE CINEMA is the way to watch a movie. It’s a community.

Let me just remind you, the week before I saw “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” I saw “Morbius” in a theater that wasn’t quite full, but had a decent crowd. No one uttered a sound for the entire runtime. There were points during “Sonic 2” where people gasped, they cheered, they clapped. This is one reason why I love going to the movies. I stand by the rule where no one should be talking during the movie, but I also think some experiences can qualify for a rock concert vibe. If you are excited, why not embrace it? The movie is certainly one that could get you excited by the end of it.

Now much like Robotnik, I would have to say that Sonic is once again, fabulously portrayed by Ben Schwartz, but the problem I have with this film when it comes to Sonic is that despite his personality being on point, especially when lining things up with the first movie, Sonic’s jokes, kind of like in the first film, come off as fairly cheap pop cultural references or forced quips. Those jokes could work, but they kind of fall flat here. Now, I will 100% contend with Sonic’s sentiments from the first movie about Keanu Reeves being a national treasure, but I think when it comes to referencing the pop cultural mojo, I think he needs to calm down just a tad. Although Ben Schwartz is a perfect interpretation for Sonic and his over the top pitch sells the character for me. I think the lesson this character has to face in this film is one of its saving graces, because even though this movie has quite a few notable flaws from the wedding scene to the disposable humor, I think if you are going to watch this movie at a certain age, I think it would be a positive influence. In a world where we have tons of movies with violence and explosions, it is nice to see one that occasionally gives slight objections to those ideas despite them being in it.

This film introduces a couple new CGI characters into the mix, Miles “Tails” Power and Knuckles. One of my big complaints about movies that have voiceover characters nowadays like the upcoming “Super Mario Bros.” movie for example is that they tend to rely on big names to get people in the theater. Granted, I like Chris Pratt, I dig Charlie Day, and I adore Anya Taylor-Joy, so we’ll see what happens there. But I am glad that this movie tended to give an opportunity to not just an actual pro voice actor to voice Tails, but give that opportunity to a voice actor who has literally voiced the character in other creations. Colleen O’Shaughnessy is a delight in this film. But at the same time, this film is the best of both worlds, because they also allowed Idris Elba to voice Knuckles the Echidna, which I thought was a great choice. He’s a terrific actor, his voice is iconic, and it matches the grit such a character can promise. Elba’s interpretation of Knuckles allowed him to arguably become the most hysterical character of the entire film. Basically he has the personality of a fantasy narrator and a fantasy protagonist rolled into one person. It’s perfect. Unlike Sonic, Knuckles appears to have less of a hang of things when it comes to knowing about the rituals of mankind. Each joke related to his developing knowledge or lack of knowledge on the subject matter hits hard every time. I won’t spoil anything, but the moment you hear “Dot, dot, dot…” You’re in for a treat.

But if I had to be honest, this movie is not as solid as the original. Sure, it has fan service that lovers of the games will appreciate, the effects and sound are utterly amazing, and it is definitely one of the less offensive video game movies to exist compared to some others. But the first movie had a foundation that felt properly structured and put into place. It was a building that was functional and served its purpose. This movie took that same building and added way too many more floors to it. The wedding gag was utterly atrocious and ultimately sullies what could have been a fantastic movie. And if I were a kid watching “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” I probably would be saying the same thing. I liked the action, I liked the dynamic between Eggman and Knuckles, but the wedding scene made me want to break up with this film. I will also say that some of the supporting characters from the first film like Wade and Rachel make an appearance here, and they feel wasted by the end. They don’t do much to make their appearances feel worthwhile.

Also, can we talk about something? I want to remind you of the fact that Sonic, a hedgehog, not a human, but a HEDGEHOG. I know it speaks English, but still. This HEDGEHOG has technically been adopted as the Wachowski family’s son? I mean, literally, the movie makes references to Sonic calling Tom “dad.” It’s really weird! Look, I know they developed a relationship, but… That’s kinda freaky. I KNOW it’s a movie… But it is somewhat unsettling! It’s an odd taste in the mouth!

In the end, “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” was fun when I saw it, and the positives do outweigh the negatives, but the more I think about the film, the less I like it. The first “Sonic the Hedgehog” felt like that next step for video game movies, maybe we’ll be getting some great ones soon. Unfortunately, this sequel cannot acquire the same luster as that first one. The voice-work is great, the effects are top-notch, and the sound is unbelievable. But if I learned something about video games it is that not everyone cares about the story, they care more about how the game looks, how it plays. The movie looks incredible, and had they gone with that original Sonic introduced in spring 2019, I do not think that would have been the case. But the story in “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” feels like it is not as important as it was in its predecessor, and that is despite having a great lesson intertwined. I feel like children can learn something from this movie. But as an adult, I don’t know when I will be watching this movie again. I’ll probably go back to the original at some point, but this will probably have to wait. I’m going to give “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” a 6/10.

“Sonic the Hedgehog 2” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the brand new DreamWorks Animation flick, “The Bad Guys!” Also coming soon, stay tuned for my review of “The Northman!” In addition, I am seeing “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” next week, so I will have a review coming for that movie too! Stay tuned! If you want to see more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Sonic the Hedgehog 2?” What did you think about it? Or, which movie did you like better? “Sonic the Hedgehog” or “Sonic the Hedgehog 2?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Turning Red (2022): Pixar’s Latest, and Best, Direct to Disney+ Feature

“Turning Red” is directed by Domee Shi, who also directed “Bao,” one of the more memorable Pixar shorts. This film stars Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Hyein Park, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Orion Lee, Wai Ching Ho, Tristan Allerick Chen, and James Hong in a film about a young girl named Meilin Lee whose life and connection with those around her begins to turn upside down as soon as she transforms into a giant red panda.

Pixar is one of the best studios ever created, and I am honestly saddened to see what is becoming of them. And it is not the studio’s fault, it is instead the faults of Disney themselves, who happen to be putting their movies straight to Disney+. I could kind of understand it for “Soul,” because it was a good way to boost subscribers, it was free, unlike “Mulan,” and COVID-19 was incredibly rampant. “Luca” suffered the same fate months later for similar reasons, although I honestly think it would have done semi-decently in theaters if marketed well enough. After all, Pixar movies usually end up being some of the bigger hits of the summer. So I was disappointed to see that one go straight to streaming as well, even if it ended up being my least favorite movie from the studio. I was optimistic that Disney would not do the same for “Turning Red,” whose trailers I saw in theaters, and have enjoyed. …In theaters. Turns out, that’s not the case.

So I went to California to go see this film in a theater. That was not the main intention of why I went there, but that was something I happened to do while I was visiting. I look back on “Soul,” which to me, is an inferior Pixar title, and think it would have been cool to see it in theaters because the music would have sounded graceful through high-quality surround sound. Now that I HAVE seen “Turning Red” in a theater, part of me almost questions how this did not get a wider release. Because there are select parts that had my attention, especially at the end, that would have been nowhere near as enhanced had I watched this movie at home.

But as for the movie itself, I want to point out that the last two Pixar films, “Soul” and “Luca” are currently my least favorites they have done. Thankfully, “Turning Red” does not join those ranks. I would put it in the same caliber as maybe “Ratatouille,” a movie a really enjoyed, but also acknowledge is not maybe my favorite or least favorite. Again, Pixar is a great studio, and even with what I said about “Luca,” the film is still in the positive range for me. Their batting average is one of the best in regards to studios working today. It reminds me of Marvel Studios, except that they have a few movies that disappointed me and I would consider to be in the negative. When it comes to entertaining a massive amount of people, and not just giving the bare minimum when it comes to that, Pixar knows exactly what they’re doing. And getting Domee Shi to tell her story is a part of that.

One of my favorite Pixar movies is “Inside Out,” partially because of how emotionally satisfying it is by the end of it, but also partially because of how perfect of a metaphor it is for entering adolescence. Similar to “Inside Out,” “Turning Red” almost comes off as a metaphor for puberty, and I am kind of amazed that Pixar even decided to execute a movie like this because I think some adults will look at this and wonder if kids should even be watching it. Disney movies have sometimes been known for their dark turns in the story, especially when a member of the family dies. I will keep spoilers of “Turning Red” to a minimum, because I do recommend it, but the parts that may be the least kid-friendly are the moments that reflect the coming of age or growing up of our main character. If anything, I would say that this movie is almost a secret sequel to “Inside Out,” because if you remember that movie’s ending, it’s like we took one fraction from that film’s ending and made a feature-length story on what happens next.

This movie has a reference to “stripper music!” A kids movie!

The main characters of “Turning Red” make every other character in a Pixar film from Lightning McQueen to Mike Wazowski look completely silent and innocent. And by the main characters, I mean the teenage girls. Mei, Abby, Miriam, and Priya. I feel like watching them with their emphasized expressions and emotions not only highlight the chemistry they have with each other, but I felt like there were select scenes that highlight emotions from them that either would only reflect them at their current age or would highlight maybe the stereotyped awkwardness, perhaps even grossness, that comes with puberty. There are select facial expressions in this film that are off the wall cartoony to the point where there’s almost no real life replica for them.

In fact, not only does this film feature some of traditions of Pixar when it comes to their animation style with highly detailed, computerized 3D, which looks as impressive as usual. But there is also a bit of a Japanese anime style to this film as well, and it is fully embraced with FLASHY moments sprinkled every bit in between, poppy, bright colors, and I would even say the climax and its inner-workings feel like something out of an anime at times. But despite this film’s animated look, there is one moment, I will not say when, that something came onto the screen, and my jaw literally dropped at the sight of it because of how real it looked. Pixar is easily my favorite studio for animated movies, and part of it is not only because of their fun stories that bring joy and occasional tears, but also the effort that has been put into the film’s design. 2019’s “Toy Story 4” has one of the most surprisingly realistic looking shots I have seen of a cat in animation history. I think I just saw something equal to, if not greater than that.

“Turning Red” is Pixar doing what Pixar does best, because I often look at films from studios like Illumination and Dreamworks Animation and think to myself that despite their occasional enjoyability here and there, they almost dumb themselves down too much for the children who are inevitably going to be watching it because there are things happening on screen. Pixar does not do that. They feel like the wisest studio of them all. I almost feel like Pixar, when it comes to animation in the United States at least, is the thinking man’s animation studio. Disney Animation has a childlike spirit despite its darker themes. DreamWorks has its moments of maturity, but also resorts to immature jokes here and there. Illumination… My god. “Turning Red” seems to have a childlike spirit, but that is a compliment on the movie’s part because I feel like animation is, bar none, the perfect medium for something like this. I have seen images on the Internet of the film before it came out or just around release time regarding certain individuals refusing to watch this film because of the way it looked.

Okay. Now, film is subjective, not every movie is for everyone, but I will say if they did this film in live action, I think that they would have to change A LOT. Maybe some of the hyperactive writing could stay, but the expressions of the characters would not pop as much as it does here. I would love to see more of what Domee Shi does with her character and potentially what she can do with another directorial effort at Pixar. I think she and maybe Pete Docter (and Brad Bird should they make “Incredibles 3”) are the names I will await with eager anticipation in terms of when their next project arrives.

At the end of the day, this film is not just about someone who turns into a panda and lets all sorts of shenanigans unfold, it is about the struggles of growing up, the struggles of friendship, the struggles of family. At some point in these aspects, it is tough to maintain trust between one side and another. Sometimes you cannot please your parents because you want to please your friends. Sometimes you may not agree with everything your parents say, because maybe from their view, maybe they want the best for you. Their response could be somewhat justified, but in a case like this, the child may be significantly let down because they have wanted something so bad that it is all they think about. This took me back to a time when I was younger and I would ask my parents if I could play a slate of M rated video games. By the way, I played a ton of “Team Fortress 2” as a young teen. TURNED OUT FINE. The movie presents a similar case with 4 Town, a boy band who happens to be performing in Toronto. The girls want to go to the concert together, and the parents obviously want to interfere. From their point of view, they think the music is kind of ridiculous and think an event like this could be potentially harmful. But for the girls, this is practically their whole life. From the girls’ point of view, they almost see this as a part of growing up, which is part of what the movie’s about.

This film maintains a great lesson for children and adults. When I watch family movies or movies that are in the animated medium, I often note the lesson that they tend to provide for the children watching, it’s mainly intended for them. But I feel like a parent could watch this movie and take something from it too. It’s that good. It’s that effective. I highly recommend this movie to anyone and I wish it had a theatrical release.

The film also has a post-credits scene. For those who want to watch the movie, do not pause when the credits roll, there is more.

In the end, “Turning Red” is wonderful movie. It is not my favorite Pixar film, but it is funny, charming, and fast-paced. While there definitely are some moments in this film that try to go for the emotions, this may be a somewhat easier watch for some people than some of Pixar’s other fare in recent years like “Inside Out” or “Coco,” because films like those often seemingly attempt to make people cry. “Turning Red” starts off as cheerful fun and ends that way. If you want a joyful, happy go lucky film with some conflict, I highly recommend this picture. The main character of Mei is wonderful and brilliantly voiced by Rosalie Chiang. I would love to see more from the “Turning Red” property, and I am going to give it an 8/10.

Also, big shoutout to Sandra Oh. Her resume from an animation perspective has been fire lately. She was in “Over the Moon,” “Raya and the Last Dragon,” and now this. She is making some great choices lately.

“Turning Red” is now available on Disney+ for free as long as you are a subscriber.

Thanks for reading this review! Speaking of reading, if you like reading things for a very very long time, you will LOVE the 4th Annual Jackoff Awards! The awards were held on March 27th, but if you want to read the show now, here is an opportunity! Find out which 2021 films win’s Jacks awards! Should we do a fifth awards show, my next movie I am reviewing will probably not make it. Ladies and gentlemen, my next review… Is… Morbius.

Let’s get this overwith.

If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Turning Red?” What did you think about it? Or, which of the straight to Disney+ Pixar movies did you enjoy the most? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Belle (2021): Beauty and the Beast Meets Ready Player One

“Belle” is directed by Mamoru Hosada (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Mirai) and stars Kaho Nakamura, Ryō Narita, Shōta Sometani, Tina Tamashiro, Lilas Ikuta, Kōji Yakusho, and Takeru Satoh in a film about a girl who joins a popular social media platform called U, basically think of it as what Meta is trying to do, but sexier. While Suzu copes with everyday life in academics and living in a village, she often escapes to U, where she displays the persona of a singer.

Social media is one of the best and worst inventions of the past few decades. Think of it like “Saturday Night Live.” The cold open is usually okay, the monologue may still have you on your toes, but it just takes one sketch to topple it all apart. I like going on Facebook and feeling good about myself about the likes some photo gets that I actually put on Instagram and transported it over for my grandparents to see, but I can only go through so many comments sections on the news feeds. To see a film that shows the ups and downs of social media is quite lovely. Because it has become such an important part of our lives in such a short amount of time. I am not one who constantly watches anime, but I approve seeing a story like this regardless of the medium. There are a lot of lessons that can be provided and mistakes that can turn into tense moments.

Having seen “Belle” last week, I think it is a topical, charming, and euphoric piece of animation. As far as other pieces of anime go, I do not have much to compare this film to, I do not tend to dive into that medium partially because I don’t have time, and there are not as many opportunities to watch anime for review purposes compared to some other genres and mediums. I went to see Belle because I saw someone talk about it online as the best IMAX experience they’ve ever had. So I thought I’d make it a priority to go watch the film on the biggest screen I could. Unfortunately, I could not find any IMAX screenings for “Belle,” so regular 2D was the next best thing. I can confirm that the film is not my favorite theatrical experience, in fact there are certain animated films like “Over the Moon” that have been more immersive in the theater than this, although I was stuck to the screen like glue at times.

If anything this film is kind of like “The Matrix,” maybe even “Ready Player One.” while not a concrete remake, the films share numerous concepts. Both films have a digital world that is supposedly better than its real life counterpart, but inside this world, there is a threat both to the hero’s life and the lives of others who spend all their time in this world. And much like how the OASIS is crucial to everyone’s lives in “Ready Player One,” “Belle” does a great job at showing the marked necessity of its U platform. When everyone is not busy enjoying their everyday, mundane lives, it seems that they turn to U. This film nails the horrors of social media by tackling trolls, popularity, and in some cases, maybe living a significantly different life than the one you’re already going through. I mean, on Scene Before, I often call myself the Movie Reviewing Moron, but if I had to spend my time on Twitter with that exact persona, I’d probably getting a lot more hate messages. In this film, Suzu’s social media persona is Belle, which is not only appropriate because a lot of the movie is spent going through her journey as a digital singer, and of course, every other popular singer goes by one name. But this movie also spends its time as a partial redo of “Beauty and the Beast,” there is one character Belle finds, meets, and falls in love with, and they’re literally sometimes referred to as “The Beast.”

As much as it may be a retread in some ways of a tale some already know, it kind of added to the enchanting vibe this movie has at times. I highly praise “Belle” for being a mostly original and unique animated tale that captures all the emotions, but there are also times where it relies on something we already know to get its point across. As good as this movie is, it may make the film eventually feel not as ageless as it could be. And continuing my Disney story comparisons, this film takes a trademark of that company, but it is one I would rather leave unmentioned because it could be a spoiler. I watched a couple trailers and there is a clip of the film I did not see in either of them.

I feel like Suzu is a solid protagonist for this film, and if I watched this at a certain age, I probably would have related to her completely. After all, she’s not that popular, kind of dorky, arguably a bit of a wuss at times. While it is not everyone’s dream to be super popular online, especially if you live in Florida, the film tinkers with the fantasy of restarting your life and possibly building a better life than the one you’ve got. I joined Twitter when I was a teen to make friends in addition those I already had, and admittedly maybe care more about getting followers than I should have… And I stayed on because while I did have friends in real life, I have made some of my best friends over the years on that platform. And I owe it to Twitter for in some way improving my life. Conceptually, the U platform could evoke the same positive vibes for someone like Suzu, although the platforms are structurally different.

If I had to say anything else about “Belle,” I would have to point out that it has some really good music that fits the material that is written for the screen while also being decent enough to be played on its own. There is a song towards the end of the film that captures the spirit of the story, its characters, and the very idea of imagination. It’s quite a joy to hear with surround sound. I honestly felt more moved by the music in “Belle” than I did for anything in “Encanto,” which for a few of my readers, may be saying something. I should note that these two movies are completely different in terms of story and vibe, but I figured with how often people are talking about the film where we don’t talk about Bruno, this is something worth talking about.

In the end, “Belle” is an imaginative capturing of emotions, thrills, and wonderous music. The film is marvelously crafted and a perfect story for a 21st century audience. When I saw “Ron’s Gone Wrong” a few months back, which also occasionally comes off as a warning for those living in an age of popularity aspirations and social media, I was delighted by its premise, but not with its execution. “Belle” on the other hand, is not only a delight, but an escape that makes it one of the better animations of 2021. I’m going to give “Belle” an 8/10.

“Belle” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for last year’s critically acclaimed film “Belfast,” directed by Kenneth Branagh. That review will be up soon, hopefully it’s worth the hype. But if you want to see more of my content, be sure to check out my picks for the BEST and WORST movies of 2021! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Belle?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite social media platform? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Sing 2 (2021): Where Modern Music Meets Overly Goofy Cartoon Gags

“Sing 2” is written and directed by Garth Jennings, who was the writer and one of the two directors behind the original “Sing” as well. This film stars Matthew McConaughey (Interstellar, Serenity), Reese Witherspoon (Big Little Lies, Wild), Scarlett Johansson (Iron Man 2, Lucy), Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Rocketman), Bobby Cannavale (Ant-Man, Blue Jasmine), Tori Kelly, Nick Kroll (Kroll Show, Sausage Party), Pharrell Williams (Black is King, The Grinch), Halsey, Chelsea Peretti (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, TruTV Presents: World’s Dumbest), Letitia Wright (Black Panther, Black Mirror), Eric André (The Eric André Show, The Lion King), Adam Buxton (8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, The Adam and Joe Show), Garth Jennings, Peter Serafinowicz (Guardians of the Galaxy, Shaun of the Dead), Jennifer Saunders (Shrek 2, Absolutely Fabulous), Nick Offerman (The Founder, Parks and Recreation), and Bono of U2 fame.

Hey don’t blame me! I cannot leave a single name untouched!

This film is the sequel to the 2016 film “Sing,” which was about Buster Moon trying to save his theater and attempts doing so by creating a singing competition, which provides for some bumps along the way. In this sequel, Buster Moon and his pals are attempting to create a new science fiction live show for a venue in Las Vegas wannabe Redshore City. In doing so, they pitch to Mr. Crystal, a sleazy producer, the idea of getting Clay Calloway, a reclusive lion who used to make music, to be part of the show. And of course, nostalgia being nostalgia (look at “Star Wars” dominating the world), he loves the idea and thinks the group should get him to be in the whole thing. Between the intense mission of convincing this former artist to tag along in addition to nepotism and internal drama, things have only gotten harder for our SINGers.

Is that a proper term? SINGers? Does that work?

“Sing” is the kind of film that you watch, have fun with, and then move onto the next thing. And sadly, despite my slight negative vibe that could be triggered with such a statement, “Sing” was what I considered to be my personal favorite of Illumination’s content. I don’t care for “Despicable Me.” The minions kind of drive me crazy. “The Secret Life of Pets” was an okay watch one time, but never again. The sequel however, is just plain insufferable. “The Grinch” almost made me hate Christmas. And I love Christmas! I think Christmas, in more ways than one, is one of the best times of the year, minus all the blasphemous music. Mariah Carey, all I want for Christmas is for you to go away. It’s like if top 40 started drinking eggnog! And speaking of top 40, “Sing” and its sequel partially rely on their own interpretations of popular songs. In the original film, you had songs from Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, and Frank Sinatra. I feel like my biggest critique of that first film is the fact that a few of the standout songs come off as processed radio brought into the mix simply for its popularity. And I think the same can be said for “Sing 2.”

I don’t think it’s wrong to put newer songs into a film like this, but doing so also risks the film possibly relying on what’s trendy. This new film has songs like “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back,” which has been a hit for some time. I really like the scene where it is performed, but I wonder if people will look at it years from now and think of it as a product of its time.

If you want my short, honest opinion of “Sing 2,” I would have to say it is… Fine.

…Just. Fine.

Crap.

I think that is one of the most interesting things one can say about a movie. The fact that a movie can be considered just fine does not mean it’s great nor terrible. However, in the case of “Sing 2,” the film cannot convince me to land on a particular side of the spectrum. In some situations, the movie feels like your typical Illumination fare, because unlike Pixar, which always seems to understand the assignment in creating a FAMILY movie, “Sing 2” occasionally relies on gags that feel as if they’re only aimed at younger viewers. Granted, the film is fun for all ages, but compared to some other films I’ve seen this year, including the recently reviewed “Encanto,” it feels a bit more on the kiddy side.

The thing I appreciate about both “Sing” installments is the idea of not giving up on your dreams. I think both films succeed when trying to convey that message to its viewers. The heroes in this film collectively struggle in their own way when it comes to accomplishing their goals, or in this case, following their dreams. We see Rosita struggling to live up to the pressures and enormity of being in a starring role. We see Buster Moon trying to encourage everyone to stay on their toes and try to fight for another day. We see Clay Calloway deal with the internal battle of his past. He stopped playing his music because it reminded him way too much of his dead wife. WAIT, did Christopher Nolan have some writing credit in this film I’m not aware of? I think an additional takeaway this film can provide is that not only do we see these dreams potentially hit roads that contain possible dead ends, but part of why these dreams hang in the balance is because of entertainment giants. Mr. Crystal, ever since I first saw his character, kind of reminded me of a Simon Cowell-type, and that vibe is significant in terms of where the film goes.

Speaking of Mr. Crystal (left), this film introduces a couple new characters, Mr. Crystal included. Alongside Mr. Crystal is his daughter, Porsha (right). As our heroes enter the urbanized, neon streets of Redshore City, they meet these two characters who become integral to the story. Mr. Crystal is an entertainment mogul who puts his faith in said heroes. You may think someone like him to be a bit of a snobby, almost creepy, egotistical moron who wants things to go his way. If so, you’re right. He’s also well-dressed, and I think when it comes to getting a guy who can sound snarky and snobby at the same time, Bobby Cannavale is a great choice. When I hear his voice, I feel like I’m watching an older mob movie with modern elements infused. But Crystal’s also a family man. …Kind of. That’s because this film contains a subplot involving his daughter, Porsha, potentially taking on the lead role of the space opera everyone’s producing.

For the role of Porsha, they managed to get Halsey to lend her voice. Halsey is not known for having an acting career as much she is known for singing. I think this is a somewhat fascinating, yet practical choice, because I have rarely seen Halsey on screen. Apparently she had a small role in “A Star is Born” a few years back but I would not be able to remember when she was on screen. I barely even know anything about Halsey. But having seen her IMDb, most of her work has been music related, so seeing her cast in this role makes sense. It is a movie about music, about singing. Why not have her? And I would say given her material, she was well directed on Garth Jennings’s part. Going back to what I said about her not being in many pieces of film or television, one of the driving aspects of her character was that she was a terrible actress. Halsey, who does a good job acting in this film, managed to convince me that her character in particular was the worst actor of all time.

Ladies and gentlemen, acting!

There are also a couple new characters who I was not particularly fond of. There’s a monkey named Klaus that instructs Johnny and others through an intense dance routine. I think in terms of the script and story, he served his role adequately. But he kind of felt one-dimensional. The same can be said for Darius, an actor who wants nothing other than fame, fortune, more fame, and more fortune. When Darius is on screen, he’s occasionally entertaining, but he lacks depth. He lacks dimension. He almost feels like a throwaway character despite being part of the film. Although it was fun to see Meena the elephant try to accustom herself to being romantic despite not having much experience in such a thing.

In the end, “Sing 2” is a step down from the original, and frankly, just proves once again that when it comes to animated studios, I still prefer DreamWorks and Pixar. If you asked me years ago if a “Sing 2” was a good idea, I’d say yes. It would not be the first thing I’d see, but it is worth at least a glance. I’d say the studio and crew should give it a shot. The first one was good. And having rewatched the first one recently before going to the cinema to see this, it’s still good. I just wish “Sing 2” lived up to its predecessor. I’m going to give “Sing 2” a 6/10. This is a positive grade despite some negative things I have previously stated. But I think if anything, the positives will not be enough to get me to watch this film again anytime soon.

“Sing 2” is now playing in theaters and is available to buy now on streaming platforms.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be a for a film that is somewhat personal to me. And if you know where I reside, you’ll get where I’m coming from. Some of you reading this may feel the same way. That film in particular is Amazon’s new feature, “The Tender Bar!” This film just released over the holiday season, it just dropped on Prime Video, and now it is a good time to talk about it. I cannot wait to discuss this film. It’s going to be a ball. If you want to see this and from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Sing 2?” What did you think about it? Or, which is better? “Sing” or “Sing 2?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Encanto (2021): We Do Talk About the Joys of This Fun, Colorful, Animated Adventure

“Encanto” is directed by Jared Bush, Byron Howard, and Charise Castro Smith. It’s little weird for a movie to have three directors, but Disney also did this for “Raya and the Last Dragon,” which kicked butt, so what does a nobody like me know? This film stars Stephanie Beatriz (Modern Family, Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Maria Cecilia Botero (Her Mother’s Killer, La Bruja), John Leguizamo (Ice Age, John Wick: Chapter 2), Mauro Castillo (El Joe: The Legend), Jessica Darrow (Grand Theft Auto V, Anomaly), Angie Cepeda (Pobre Diabla, The Seed of Silence), Carolina Gaitán (El Final del Paraiso, Narcos), Diane Guerrero (Orange is the New Black, Jane the Virgin), and Wilmer Valderrama (NCIS, That ’70s Show). This film follows a young girl named Mirabel who lives in a magical house with a magical family. Only problem, within this magical lifestyle, she is the only one who has never inherited a magical power. The rest of her family however, has that one ability that makes them special. However, Mirabel discovers that all this magic is disappearing. Once this is realized, she sets out on a quest to restore the magic and her family.

This film released in November. Due to life and school kind of making me want to take some time for myself, I will admit that some of my content has been evenly spread lately, and this is a film that I did happen to see during the month it released. There may be some movies that might not get talked about in the near future, depending on time constraints and business. “Encanto,” however, is not one of those films. This film is not from Pixar, but whenever I watch a trailer for a Pixar movie, I always look at it excited about the concept, but often worried about the execution. It looks fun, but it doesn’t come off as extravagant or unique. And when it comes to this theatrical-exclusive Disney feature, or at least when it came out, I felt the same way here as I do with some Pixar films. The concept of someone having no magical powers within a magic-heavy environment was intriguing, but I just wish the marketing did a little more to entice me. Thankfully, this movie, much like a few other animated titles I’ve seen throughout my life, managed to surprise me.

Magic has become synonymous with the branding of Macy’s–Wait? Macy’s? That can’t be right!

*Clears throat*

Magic has become synonymous with the branding of Disney. The company has had years of providing spins on fairy tales, doses of imagination, and spent lots of time and money developing its Magic Kingdom in Florida, which is a state that’s a bit of a Magic Kingdom unto itself. So to see a story like this where magic, a mysterious concept, become an ordinary element in one’s world, is not much of a surprise. At it’s surface, it’s yet another edition of the whole idea that “everyone’s special” and this even goes for the nobodies of the world, which in this case is Mirabel. This is not the best story done in that regard, but I think it has a special place in the Disney library as it successfully masters the idea of a family either coming together or having notable differences. I think it does a really good job at highlighting ups and downs of being in a family and in the case of Mirabel, wondering if you are “good enough.” Let’s face it… EVERY PARENT HAS A FAVORITE CHILD. If my future children read this, let’s just hope this theory is proven wrong. I’m not here to declare that Mirabel’s parents thinks she’s the worst child, cause, you know, “every parent has a favorite child,” whether they admit it or not… But I do think inside Mirabel’s mind, she’s thinking her parents see her as the least favorite child through what could be defined as no fault of her own.

One of the best things about this film is that there is no real villain getting in the hero’s way. Granted, there are obstacles, there are happenings, there are events, there are occurrences that our hero has to deal with, some of which provide for a fun movie. But one thing I like about this film is that despite coming from a studio that has created iconic villains like Scar, which has been known for haunting some children’s nightmares, it is kind of refreshing to see a film with no real antagonist. It kind of reminds me of a Netflix film I saw last year, which has given me tons of Disney vibes throughout, “Over the Moon,” because that film, which technically does have an antagonist, doesn’t really have anyone that happens to be truly vicious or evil depending on your point of view. Granted, the film’s antagonist comes close given some of the things they do, but nevertheless. To me, they felt good at heart.

Now this film came out in 2021, which if anything, should be a year where almost any major studio film should look good at minimum. Animations in general over the past number of years have always had a wow factor in terms of the renderings and computer generated scenes. Everything always looks grand and powerful. “Encanto” is no exception. Unlike the previous major Disney animated film that came out in 2021, “Raya and the Last Dragon,” “Encanto” takes advantage of its rather lighthearted and whimsical vibes and often allows as much color as it can into certain scenes. This provides for stunning images that are likely to stay with some viewers.

The music in this film, when it comes to Disney fare, is frankly forgettable. I will admit, this is a case where it has been some time since I watched the movie, so a second viewing could refresh my memory, but in the context of this review, where I’m talking about a film that kind of partially on music-heavy segments and catchy tunes for entertainment value, forgetting a good portion of it can be a problem.

I do think that children are likely to be entertained by “Encanto.” Granted, having watched a lot of movies as a child, I was often entertained with whatever was in front of me. I do think it successfully captures the idea that even if you are unique or extraordinary, it does not mean you’re perfect. Things fade. Life is not kind. It also suggests that those who are not as unique on the surface still have a chance of potentially proving to be the best version of themselves.

In the end, “Encanto” is a charming animated flick that I recommend to a lot of people. This is not my favorite animated film of the year, but when it comes to this year’s slate, I think it will have more staying power than “Ron’s Gone Wrong,” which was… Interesting. I make fun of Disney all the time, but at the end of the day, they know what they’re doing because they can simply make movies for kids, which seems to be the intention with almost every animated project, but they always find a way to understand these are not KIDS movies. They’re family movies. They’re smarter. I’m going to give “Encanto” a 7/10.

“Encanto” is now playing in select theaters and is available to buy or rent through streaming. The film is also available on Disney+ to all subscribers.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, guess what? I have another animation to talk about soon, and that is the new Illumination film “Sing 2!” The first “Sing” film is my favorite Illumination project, and I say that as someone who has not really watched “Despicable Me,” so I might be providing somewhat invalid results. Is this sequel better than the original? You’ll find out soon enough! Also, be sure to stay tuned for my top 10 best and worst movies of 2021, coming soon! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or a WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Encanto?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite animated film of 2021? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Ron’s Gone Wrong (2021): A Mediocre Display of Social Media-Based Materialism

“Ron’s Gone Wrong” is directed by Sarah Smith, Jean-Phillipe Vine, and Octavio E. Rodriguez. This is one of those interesting cases where a film has three directors, don’t usually see that. This film stars Jack Dylan Grazer (Luca, It), Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover, Missing Link), Ed Helms (The Office, Vacation), Justice Smith (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, All the Bright Places), Rob Delaney (Catastrophe, Deadpool 2), Kylie Cantrall (Just Go with It, Gabby Duran & the Unsittables), Ricardo Hurlado (School of Rock, Glitch Techs), and Olivia Colman (The Favourite, The Father). The film is set in the future where a giant company unveils their latest invention, the B-bot. The B-bot is a personal companion robot that is designed to make friends. Everyone has one, except for Barney, who lives in a slightly unusual household. One day, he opens up what appears to be a B-bot, only it is glitchy and all over the place. After a series of events, the two stay together, form a friendship and navigate themselves through a trend-based crowd of middle-schoolers.

When I saw the trailer for “Ron’s Gone Wrong” earlier this year, my expectations were somewhere in the middle. I liked the fact that it was an original property, which is nice to see. I liked the idea that it sort of connects to our reality (even though this film is set in the future). And the ultimate kneeslapper at the end, the “6 feet apart” joke, which probably would have been nowhere near as funny if it were not for COVID-19 happening. It’s the old saying, comedy equals tragedy plus time. And for the record, I did find out that this film was recorded and animated during the pandemic, therefore it is completely possible that the 6 feet apart joke could be a reference to it. My expectations were neither high or low, I was just looking for a good time at the movies.

And was it a good time at the movies?

Welllll….

I have watched a lot of animated movies. For this blog, I typically watch at least five in a year. But I always notice that in these movies, the filmmakers always intend to hide a lesson about something to children by the end. “The LEGO Movie” had a lesson telling children that just because you’re ordinary, doesn’t mean you’re not special. “The Lion King” taught children that life is hard and the truth will always come out, even if the consequences are deadly. “Cars” teaches children to keep their friends close and sometimes you do not need to win to be the best. I love when animations are more than just farts and giggles for the sake of farts and giggles. This is why I hate when someone says “x movie is for children, therefore x does not have to try hard at being great.” Uh… That’s lazy. That’s like saying the Boston Celtics won 17 championships, why not suck for one season? No, you give it your best shot and try to stick the landing.

“Ron’s Gone Wrong” has an obvious piece of social commentary within it. This film mainly follows Barney, who lives in what could be described as an “under a rock” setting compared to everyone else in the film. Once he acquires his B-bot, which is way different than others, this makes him more normal than before, but not in the ways that one would consider positive. There’s a moment where we see Barney encounter his bullies, and Ron helps fight back against them. I could not really decide whether I like this pair together or not, based on what I saw on screen at the time, because I doubt the movie is trying to encourage fighting for children, but I could imagine some could see it coming across that way if they don’t pay enough attention.

Although one of my favorite things about this film is how much it reminds me of today’s franchise and gaming culture. I don’t play “Fortnite,” but I know one of the big things about that game aside from the terrible hidden narrative that elevators are freakin’ useless, happen to be the skins. During the film, we see all these B-bots, and they seem to cater to the personalities of those who possess them. There’s one that displays a basketball, another one’s a monkey, another one’s a grizzly knight in armor. It’s kind of playing on the notion that the working B-bots all belong to trendy people who have no problem fitting in.

Another big allegory of the film that I picked up on was the idea that social media ruins lives. Now, these B-bots are not just personal companions to their owners, but they also run social media. Basically, the B-bot is a walking phone. There’s this great look into this one person who has something in particular happen to them during the film that makes them go from being the cool kid to the one nobody wants to sit next to during lunch.

If I had to compare this movie to anything else, I would say this it is a mashup of “Jingle All the Way” and “Free Guy.” While this film does not take place during Christmastime, unlike “Jingle All the Way,” this film heavily relies on a story that makes fun of materialism and certain things making children look cool. As for the “Free Guy” comparison, much of this film is spent from the perspective of a massive corporation who is responsible for the creation of the B-bot. The story is very similar, one guy came up with the idea, he had all the marbles and strings attached, but of course, someone else at the company is more concerned about making money and stocks. It’s your show friends vs. show business kind of story. I like bits and pieces of this, but for what I remember about the film, I don’t think I agreed with every move the characters took. Maybe I’m just an ass, I don’t know.

When it comes to animated fare, this one does not pass, but it also does not fail. I was endlessly annoyed by Barney’s B-bot. Now I get it, it’s out of control, it’s got problems. But the voicework for it became increasingly infuriating to listen to, and I’m a fan of Zach Galifianakis just to be clear. But the thing about his voiceover is that the B-bot literally says the same words the same way every single time. If they were trying to go for the typical robot thing where the bot is monotone, that’s one thing, but it’s a mix between monotone and expressive to the point where I feel like I myself am going to glitch out.

I also want to talk about my experience of watching this in the theater. It’s been a month, so I don’t remember everything. But I do remember this… After the movie had it’s big climactic moment, we see this one scene where there’s these B-bots rolling around, and one of them is in the form of a Stormtrooper. I believe there was a Darth Vader version in the movie as well. This movie is obviously making fun of the corporate way, the endless franchise propaganda we’re getting today. But if you’re a kid, it probably doesn’t matter. There was a mother and son next to me, and the son says something along the lines of “I like that one, it’s Star Wars!” Kids might not get the lesson just yet. Either way, Disney probably wins. They made this movie (under the 20th Century banner) and now they get to sell a kid more “Star Wars” stuff. That’s business!

Freakin’ corporations.

In the end, “Ron’s Gone Wrong” made me leave the theater with such a confused reaction. I did not hate this movie, but I didn’t love it either. I would not call it good, but I also would not call it a disaster. It has some occasional funny moments, but I did not always care for every character and there were certain parts I liked more than others. The film does come packed with lessons for children, but whether or not they take them, is a mystery at this point. I’m going to give “Ron’s Gone Wrong” a 6/10.

“Ron’s Gone Wrong” is now available to rent or buy. You can find it on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Blu-ray in stores. It is available to stream on Disney+, HBO, and HBO Max. It is also playing in select theaters.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, be sure to look out for more of my upcoming reviews including “King Richard,” “tick…tick…BOOM!,” and “Encanto” just to name a few. The end of the year is here and there are plenty of movies to talk about. Let’s do it. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Ron’s Gone Wrong?” What did you think about it? Or, what is one item you always begged for as a kid? Perhaps as a gift? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021): The Most 2021 Movie Ever

“Space Jam: A New Legacy” is directed by Malcom D. Lee (Girls Trip, Night School) and stars LeBron James (The Wall, Smallfoot), Don Cheadle (Iron Man 2, Crash), Khris Davis (The Blacklist, Judas and the Black Messiah), Sonequa Martin-Green (Star Trek: Discovery, The Walking Dead), Jeff Bergman (The Looney Tunes Show, Teen Titans Go!), Eric Bauza (DuckTales, Ben 10: Omniverse), and Zendaya (Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Greatest Showman). This film is the sequel to the 1996… Cult classic? I don’t know what else to call it. I really didn’t like the film. Just gonna say it. Either this film is the sequel to the 1996 film “Space Jam,” a movie where Michael Jordan joins forces with the Looney Tunes to fulfill both their destinies through a game of basketball. In this 2021 sequel, LeBron James’s son is trapped in the Warner 3000 server and to save his son, James must compete in a basketball game with the Looney Tunes against Al-G Rhythm and the Goon Squad. If LeBron and his team win, he gets his son back. If Al-G and his team win, LeBron will lose his son and the Looney Tunes will be erased.

I did not grow up in the 1990s. In fact I was born a few years after “Space Jam” came out. So it was never a part of my childhood in a way that it may have been for some people. I would hear the name come up every now and then and part of me wanted to know what I was missing. The whole idea behind it sounded like something from another universe. I for one do not usually put two and two together, but as peculiar as it sounded, it also came off as intriguing. I for one wanted to keep my eyes peeled as to how such a crazy idea that sounds like it could have been designed by an eight year old would rise to fruition. Well… it definitely sounded like something an eight year old would come up with, that’s for sure. Between Michael Jordan’s below par acting, the usually unfunny and campy writing, and occasionally lackluster camerawork, the film just didn’t click with me. And much like “Uncle Drew” in 2018, which I ended up claiming that it “didn’t do much of anything except chop my head off,” “Space Jam” is not even an original idea! They took the idea from an ad campaign!

As much as I would love to one day see the GEICO cinematic universe, where 90 minutes at the AMC won’t exactly save you 15% or more on concessions, “Space Jam” to me, was not quite a commercial failure, but it had a ton of flaws. Although I will say that it truly is a product of its time and embraces the 1990s cheese.

Now we have this part live-action, part animation, part heavy modern CGI animation “Space Jam” sequel. Is it better than the original?

Kinda? I don’t know. Let’s just put it this way, the original “Space Jam” was a product of its time and does not really hold up as much today as it did when it came out. I feel like “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is going to suffer the same fate overtime. Between the pricy yet somewhat unrealistic visuals, the cinematic universe element, and a heavy reliance on computers and sci-fi, “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is probably the most 2021 movie to ever 2021.

Going back to the recently mentioned “Uncle Drew,” one of the things I hated about that movie is how much they seemed to shoehorn Pepsi product placement into every other scene. The plot of “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is a bit more in your face with product placement because it relies on LeBron James teaming up with the Looney Tunes to find a bunch of a different characters from the Warner Brothers library. The whole movie is basically a promotion for Warner Brothers. This begs the question… Is “Space Jam: A New Legacy” even a movie in the first place? In fact, one of the big things people have been talking about at the end of the movie is that a majority of the audience in the big game happen to be Warner Bros. characters or characters from a variety of properties. People even brought up characters from “A Clockwork Orange” and asked why they’re in a family-friendly movie. I don’t really have that complaint because “The LEGO Batman Movie” had characters from “The Matrix” which is also rated R. So that’s just me. Either way, “Space Jam: A New Legacy” feels like it is trying harder to get people to attach themselves to other Warner Brothers properties more than they are to Looney Tunes or LeBron James. I understand that the Looney Tunes has had a history of pop culture references. Heck, one of the moments I recall often from the original “Space Jam” is a reference to “Pulp Fiction.” But this movie barely feels like it has a clear identity at times and uses alternate properties in your face to move the story along.

Let’s talk about LeBron James. I know he’s had a few acting credits. Frankly I have not seen any of them. I still have not seen “Trainwreck,” “Smallfoot,” or any other movie or show he’s been in. I’ve seen some of the TV shows he produces including “The Wall,” but I cannot recall ever seeing him act. And I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that “Space Jam: A New Legacy” showcases more of a semblance of acting talent from LeBron James than the original “Space Jam” did from Michael Jordan. The difference at times feels night and day. The bad news is that the good news does not really say much because LeBron is not that great of an actor. In fact, at times he’s very flat, especially at the beginning of the movie. I’ll defend James in one area. I think he could have a reputable career in voiceovers if he chooses to go down that path. But he is nevertheless not the greatest actor. Nor is he the greatest character in this movie. In fact at times, LeBron James is kind of an asshole. Now, I know that movies are supposed to get you to like assholes as they progressively change into better people. But the way that LeBron treats his son in the movie kind of left a bad taste in my mouth as far as my first impression goes and sort of made James himself lack dimension.

Also, I know that this is a kids movie, and I’m trying my best to judge with the notion in mind that someone younger could end up watching this film and calling it the best thing ever. I think that scenario is entirely plausible. If you have kids, I think they will end up really liking the film. It’s got the Looney Tunes in it, it’s got a bunch of other Warner Brothers properties in it. But at the end of the day, “Space Jam: A New Legacy” feels like it could end up brainwashing kids to buy more Warner Brothers stuff just because they saw it in this movie. If anything, this reminded me of “The Emoji Movie” where the characters jump from one world to another and every other plot thread is utilized through existing properties or companies from Candy Crush Saga to YouTube! Thankfully, “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is nowhere near as annoying. But if I left the movie saying to myself… Hmm, I wanna go watch “Wonder Woman.” I think it is ultimately a slight detractor on “Space Jam: A New Legacy” because well, unlike “Wonder Woman,” I do not want to go back and watch “Space Jam: A New Legacy” again.

I also want to address the Lola Bunny controversy… I’m not talking about the way she looks. I don’t care if they desexualized her. Although weirdly enough, the Granny character feels borderline sexualized at times. Take that as you want. What I do want to talk about is Zendaya playing the character. I get it, Zendaya is becoming an increasingly iconic actor. In fact, she recently won a Primetime Emmy. So that proves that she has talent. As far as her being in this movie, her voice kinda fits the character, but I want to talk about a trend that is somewhat becoming a growing concern. Taking film actors who are not primarily voiceover artists, and giving them voiceover roles just for the sake of having big names. That would be fine if they could find anyone else, but between Zendaya not feeling like she has the spark I would have expected from a character like this (although I liked her in the beginning) and the fact that this takes a role away from a voiceover professional, it is kind of a turnoff. I’m not against big actors getting voiceover roles. I’ve seen a lot of big actors have voiceover talent and it pays off. But the more I see roles like this given to actors of Zendaya’s caliber with diminishing room for actual VO artists, the more it worries me.

I will also say that Don Cheadle is surprisingly okay in the film. He’s not great. I think part of it is due to the somewhat on the nose writing, but I think Cheadle did an okay job playing a cartoony villain that really is not a cartoon. I didn’t like the voice deepening they gave him, I think that at times was a bit of a turnoff, but he was decently cast and Cheadle brought some swagger to the role.

In the end, as far as Warner Brothers commercials go, “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is inferior to any of the “LEGO” films and “Ready Player One.” At least in “Ready Player One,” they utilize all the Warner characters in a way that has them fascinatingly contributing to the story and they have some outside characters from other properties coming together to affect the way things go. In the end, that film felt like a pop culture celebration while also being a ridiculously fun movie, hence why it became one of my favorites of 2018. “Space Jam: A New Legacy” comes off as a bunch of studio executives trying to sound cool and connected with audiences but failing in the process. LeBron James as a character gets better in the movie despite leaving me with a poor taste at first. Although I found it somewhat funny how there’s a scene where he claims he does not have time to work with Warner Brothers because he’s hyper-focused on basketball, but at the same time, he’s had a history of production on the side. “The Wall” would not have had four seasons on NBC if were not for you! You literally were involved in the production and marketing of “Million Dollar Mile!” Heck, you had time to do this movie! Either way, I’m going to give “Space Jam: A New Legacy” a 4/10.

Will kids like this movie? Yes, they would. But as an adult, I can never watch this movie again, and part of me fears that this movie could have the same effect on children that maybe “The Emoji Movie” may or may not have been shooting for.

“Space Jam: A New Legacy” is now playing in theaters everywhere and now you can stream it exclusively on the ad-free version of HBO Max until 31 days after its theatrical release.

Thanks for reading this review! Stay tuned for Thursday, July 22nd because I will be spilling my thoughts on Jack Sparrow’s most expensive adventure yet, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” in my ongoing “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews” review series! Stay tuned for that and more on Scene Before, and you can do so by following the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, be sure to like the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Space Jam: A New Legacy?” What did you think about it? Or, which movie is better? “Space Jam” or “Space Jam: A New Legacy?” Frankly, I’m torn. But leave your thoughts down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!