Steve West: “It was ok.”

So this month's movie took us to one of Magic Johnson's theaters. The same Magic Johnson of NBA and AIDS contraction fame. I really admire his efforts to bring renewal to various urban locations and this particular theater seems to be helping in those matters here.

We brought our two girls, our wayward son, and our niece's 10 month old toddler who we were babysitting. Just the right group to benefit from a movie showing targeted at an autistic audience. With this large a group, it helps my wallet that the tickets are reduced price for these showings. There was a table full of autism awareness literature and home-made crafts for sale like earrings, ribbons and greeting cards in an autism theme at the entrance to the theater we were in. Just enough time to get them settled and a trip to the snack bar. It's dificult to be sure that anything bought at the snack bar is gluten-free so we tend to bring snacks with us and nobody complains. In line in front of me was Funny Lookin' Kid 1 who couldn't decide between plain and peanut M & M's. He was debating with FLK2, apparently a younger sibling, who threatened a tantrum if his M &M's had peanuts in them. This was merely my interpretation of their grunts and glaring. They could have been discussing global warming for all I know. Two verbally uncommunicative kids doing their best to make their intentions known. As their argument became louder and more demonstrative, Mom showed up to save the day and they settled for Whoppers. Go figure. So I get my stuff and head back to the theater to find FLK1 and FLK2 sitting right in front of me. It served as a reminder of why these showings are important and despite the distraction for me, I took pleasure in my tolerance of their autistic behavior.

The best joke of the movie happened during the opening credits when the Dreamworks logo of the young boy fishing from a crescent moon gets mugged by the movie penguins who steal his fishing rod and reel in dinner. The movie goes steadily but not sharply downhill from there.

The same animals from the first film are all represented again with the same voice actors. The same relationship details are replayed: Melman the giraffe expresses unrequited love for Gloria the hippo; Alex the lion is still egotistically concerned with how events effect only himself; King Julien is remarkably monomaniacal; and Chris Rock gets to say 'crack-a-lackin' several times. And there's the rub. What's diferent about this movie from the first one? Oh, yeah. We get introduced to Alex's parents who lost their cub from a game preserve by poachers. Yawn.

The penguins are used just right. I would probably enjoy a film exclusively devoted to them but maybe not. Their limited screen time may have lent to my appreciation of their antics. What I could have done with a lot less was kung-fu granny and Sacha Baron Cohen's King Julien. Annoying little bastard. Cedric the Entertainer was sadly wasted as a monkey flunky with little addition to the movie but was an inspired choice to voice another egotistical animal, this one an amorous hippo.

The conflict was a stupidly transparent lift of the Lion King conflict of rightful king, jealous rival for the throne, clever plan to use the child to usurp the throne, miserable failure of unrightful king when given opportunity to rule, rescue from imminent death (lack of water this time instead of food), banished son returning to save the day. The differences (there were a few, of course), just didn't seem numerous enough to outweigh the notion that constantly crept into my mind: Haven't I seen this somewhere before? If I were Disney, I'd consider litigation.

The kids loved it but Dad was very lukewarm.

− November 22, 2008 • more by Stevelog in or create an account to reply

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