Movie Review: The Box Trolls

The Box Trolls is a sweet movie about little gremlins who live in tunnels underneath a town. Falsely maligned as baby snatchers by the town villain, they struggle to survive as the villain steals them away and the townspeople hate them. In the end, the (not stolen) orphan they adopted saves the day in a heartwarming ending.

I really liked this movie except for two things that make me never want to see it again. One, the villain is a cross-dresser and is portrayed in such a way as to make all cross-dressers and transgender people seem evil. Strike one for homophobia, strike two for stereotypes and cliches.

Two, the ending is absolutely disgusting and ruins the whole rest of the movie. Spoiler alert: the villain explodes, literally. Not shown on screen, but still stomach-turning. Strike three for something truly nasty and disgusting.

The movie is really clever in the way it incorporates our society’s current anxieties and concerns, including food allergies, gourmet food & foodies, child-rearing, homophobia, and more. It’s a real shame that homophobia and prejudice against people who differ from gender norms couldn’t have been addressed in the sweet and inclusive way that the rest of the movie exhibits.

And the ending just goes to show that some ideas really, really shouldn’t be taken to their logical conclusion. Sometimes, it’s better just to leave some things to the imagination, or end the movie in a different way.

Two stars. (It would be one star, but the rest of the movie {everything but the homophobia and the disgusting ending} is so sweet, it redeems one star)

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Movie Review: The Bee Movie

Bee Movie

Image by Daniel Semper via Flickr

Absolutely ridiculous. The only words that actually apply to The Bee Movie. Jerry Seinfeld is funny, as usual, but it’s hard to get around all the inaccuracies of his movie, especially when they are in complete violation of not only common sense (naturally suspended for an animated movie about talking bees) but also basic science (something that, oddly enough, I expect to be respected even in an animated movie about talking bees).

Let’s start with the characters. Or rather, their gender. All the main bee characters are male. Okay, yeah, Jerry Seinfeld is a guy, and it is his movie, but it seems a little odd, particularly given the fact that all the workers, and all the bees that gather pollen, in the usual bee hive, in fact in all bee hives, are female. The movie makes a real point of how manly the pollen-gathering bees are, and I just couldn’t get over their sudden sex change, especially when the female bees go all fluttery over them. Yeah, right.

The mark of a good movie is to allow us to suspend disbelief long enough to believe the improbable events of the movie, but not be so unbelievable that we snap out of the story. Take Rio, which I just saw this past weekend (gasp, yes, I actually went out and saw a new movie). Blu, the main parrot character, can brush his beak with a toothbrush, log onto a computer and do whole hosts of other improbable things. But you know what, he never stops acting like a parrot. Even when he is flying above the streets of Rio de Janeiro on a piece of tin roofing, fleeing the evil cockatoo, he never stops acting like a parrot.

Jerry Seinfeld’s Barry, on the other hand, doesn’t act like a bee. He acts like Jerry Seinfeld. And the other bees and insects don’t act like bees and insects. They act like human sidekicks and/or enemies of Jerry Seinfeld. If you go into The Bee Movie to see a Jerry Seinfeld movie, you won’t be disappointed. But if you go in to see a funny movie about bees, you are in for a shock.

Back to the gender of the characters. Not only are all the female bees these ridiculous fluttery characters, unable to make a serious decision if their life depended on it, and Barry ends up with a human, but we never see the queen, the lifeblood of a real hive. Honey production is controlled by male bees, in a very factory-like setting.

In a real hive, the queen is in charge of everything, and honey is bee vomit, made by the bees eating the pollen and then vomiting it back up. Just what you always wanted to know about your favorite sweetener, right? :)

Frankly, I think Jerry Seinfeld has a problem with strong females, since he removed them from this movie that is, essentially, all about him.

And finally, we are treated to an interspecies romance between a human woman and a male bee, Barry. The owner of a flower shop, Vanessa, has a jerk of a boyfriend whom she soon sends packing after meeting Barry. Nothing wrong with a sweet romance between two mismatched people, but I don’t really get the feeling here that’s what’s going on. I think it’s more Jerry Seinfeld’s way of saying, “Hey, look at me. I’m irresistible in any shape.”

All told, The Bee Movie is a tiresome mishmash of bad science, formulaic romance, and forgettable characters.

1 out of 5 stars.

Movie Review: Over The Hedge

I saw Over The Hedge the other day. I know I’m a little late reviewing it, since it came out over 4 years ago, in 2006, but in my defense, I don’t watch many movies.

While I was uncomfortable with the way the wild animals were thriving on human junk food (umm, no, human junk food is really bad for wild animals), the rest of the movie struck me as, well, a movie. Until my little daughter asked, “Mommy, why did they make the woman a bad woman?”

If you haven’t seen the movie, there are two main human characters. One is a parody of an exterminator (male), and the other is a single, well-dressed woman, president of the Homeowner’s Association, and the villain of the piece.

I told my daughter that they (the makers of the movie) hadn’t made the woman bad because she was a woman, but because they needed a bad person, a villain. I ended up explaining how a movie plot generally works and left it at that.

Until I started thinking more about the original question. Because, on second thought, the woman seems to be a caricature of a high-powered female executive. She’s dressed in a power suit (or expensive-looking pajamas), her hair is nicely styled, and she’s always on the go. She doesn’t seem to have a family, or even a significant other, just a snooty Persian cat.

She’s portrayed as obsessive, uptight, and terrified of wild animals or anything else disturbing her precious orderly neighborhood. Why should the single woman doing well in life be the villain? I can easily see a mother being much more worried about the wild animals in the neighborhood — what if they bite one of her children, she might think.

But no, the one mother in the movie who has a speaking part is portrayed as kindly and concerned for the animal, although she doesn’t want her children to touch it (understandable, considering it’s a possum playing dead).

Now, the traits of the villain I have described could easily also apply to a high-powered male executive. So why don’t they? What is it that makes the villain perfectly cast (if such a term can apply to an animation) as a woman?

If you know me, you know that I don’t generally consider myself a feminist. And you know that I don’t rant on about discrimination against women. But sometimes, I still feel the need to speak out.

Not to put too fine a point on it, the way this woman is portrayed in this movie (and the way she is humiliated at the end) makes me think that the directors are threatened by competent, capable women and felt the need to bring them (or at least one) low.

It makes me sad that my little daughter (and my son) saw this humiliating portrayal of women and that strong women need to be brought down.

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