Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE WILLOUGHBYS (Netflix)

Netflix sure is stepping up their game when it comes to animated originals. THE WILLOUGHBYS is a fantastic, fun, original, yet weird kids movie that premiered back on the service in April, yet I didn’t hear about it until a recent visit to a friends place in Oklahoma for the weekend. I saw the release date was 2020, and following a recommendation from those friends’ kids that weekend, I decided to check it out. Boy am I glad I did. I’m glad I also waited to watch it with my young son and my wife, because we got to enjoy it together as a family. It’s based on the book by the famous Lois Lowry (I have never heard of this till now, who knew, right?!) and per IMDB it describes the film as: “Convinced they’d be better off raising themselves, the Willoughby children hatch a sneaky plan to send their selfish parents on vacation. The siblings then embark on their own high-flying adventure to find the true meaning of family.” And the whole story is fast paced loveliness with a dash of weird. It has colorful characters, morals about family that don’t try to hit you over the head with the messages, nice original animation that wasn’t trying to rip off anyone else’s work, and fantastic voice work from everyone involved, including, but not limited to: Ricky Gervais, Martin Short, Jane Krakowski, Terry Crews, Maya Rudolph, Alessia Cara (with a wonderful singing voice as well), and Will Forte (who really needed this, as his portrayal of Shaggy in the disappointing Scoob! just recently released seemed to be trying a bit too hard). This and Onward are the only two memorable animated films of the year so far.

This might only be a 2 paragraph review, as I don’t really want to spoil any of the surprises this film has in store for you and yours. Just know that other than the ending, this families predicament is far from predictable. Some wacky shit happens, some really cute shit happens, some dark shit happens, people are accidentally killed (well, if you see certain scenes from my eyes they did), tears will be shed, and smiles will be spread from cheek to cheek. This 2nd time director, Kris Pearn, whose first effort was Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2, is not a newbie to the animation world, as he worked in the animation departments for a ton of projects like Arthur Christmas, Open Season, and the very underrated Titan A.E. He and his crew do wonderful work here, as this is a film I can see revisiting with my family over and over and over again. After this and Klaus at the end of last year, Netflix really has something going on correctly with their animation productions. Why can’t they take that positive momentum and apply it to the original film department? Or hell, even what they choose to buy from other studios to put on their platform? Needless to say, I’ll always be weary with a new live-action Netflix original. However, I’ll be eager to press the play button if a new release from them is animated.


Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: EXTRA ORDINARY

EXTRA ORDINARY is a fun little horror comedy that came to US Theaters on March 6th, literally a week or two before the giant pandemic shut down. It has an extremely good score on Rotten Tomatoes and I’ve just been biding my time before it was a little cheaper to rent so that I could have something new to watch and review that came out in 2020 before I really start to run out of things to watch and review in the next couple of weeks (I know it doesn’t seem like it, but I really am!). When it finally went down in price this week, I knew I had to jump in. And I’m glad I did. While not quite enough horror in this film than I would’ve hoped for, it has a tone similar to Ghostbusters. In fact, you could say a lot of the beats in this match that exactly of that film, but instead of a team of four guys literal ghost busting with electronic proton packs, it’s a man and a woman doing it with their own charm and wits, exorcism style. I chuckled throughout this whole film and laughed out loud several parts as well, but never once did I jump in fright, like I did when I first watched Ghostbusters, which is really the only complaint I can give this film. One big credit to give it, without spoiling anything, is that it has a very funny sequence where it completely flips the standard car chase on its head. Brilliantly done, I was almost on the floor by the time that scene completed. The movie has a very tight and nicely knit story line, even though all of it is pretty damn predictable, even the minor twist at the end. But as far as satires go with horror films, you could have a marathon with this, Ghostbusters, and Shaun of the Dead and be none the wiser.

Per IMDB, Extra Ordinary is about a character named “Rose, a mostly sweet and lonely Irish driving instructor, must use her supernatural talents to save the daughter of Martin (also mostly sweet and lonely) from a washed-up rock star who is using her in a Satanic pact to reignite his fame.” Said rock star is played to perfection by Will Forte, the only person you will recognize from this movie. If you are tired of Will Forte’s schtick, fret not, this movie uses his comedic talents to the best of his abilities, and distinguishes himself as an actual unique character, not just Forte being well…quirky Will Forte. But while he’s front and center on the poster due to his recognizable name to fame, it is really the Rose and Martin show. But the movie actually fleshes out all of its characters, big and small. The film is an extremely tight 94 minutes with absolutely no filler. It has great sight gags, some funny one liners, witty dialogue, and pretty fun visuals even for how low budget it is. While a lot of it is British dry comedy humor, there is a couple of crude and crass bits in there to satisfy even the perverted of American minds. I’m not very familiar with the writers/directors, but needless to say, if they kept going with this horror comedy genre, maybe they could make enough of a name for themselves where I can just go back and reference this first fun film of theirs.

The film is indeed rated R for some language and the film does have a few surprisingly disgusting gore moments. But if you want to already start barfing with those, just wait until ectoplasm comes out of Martin’s mouth. That’ll get you dry heaving quick. Other than not a lot of horror elements, if I had one other complaint about the film it would be the character of Claudia Winter, played by the woman that plays Birdie on Netflix’s Love. She seems as though as if she’s an obnoxious character that came out of a Happy Madison production. Just really obnoxious and dumb to be partnered alongside Forte as the villain. Fortunately, her ending arc in the movie justified the means to have this character be that annoying, so that complaint was quickly brushed aside. Anyway, I completely recommend this movie for those of you that don’t like straight up horror, but enjoy them mixed in as a comedy, a la Shaun of the Dead. It’s a perfect little movie to get you through this quarantine. I think it might even get better with age. While it isn’t extraordinary right now, it is a tiny bit more than ordinary, and it definitely is nowhere near being boring or a waste of your time, that I can guarantee…that it will exorcise the boredom right outta ya!

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: SCOOB!

Viewing SCOOB! at home was very bittersweet as I pressed play to watch my $24.99 BOUGHT copy of the film and not the dumb $19.99 RENT option. This movie was supposed to arrive in theaters this weekend, before COVID-19 raped all of our lives, Shawshank style. This would’ve been a movie I’d have taken my young son to, as he had expressed interest in this new Mystery Machine gang outing, having seen some of the old cartoon and yelling “Scooby!” whenever the clever talking canine appeared on-screen, and also briefly seeing some of the marketing online, on television, and even the teaser trailer to the new film when we saw Spies In Disguise, his last movie in a theater. I have to say though, not having to buy the $10 each movie tickets for the three of us, and then eventually buy the movie anyway when it would’ve normally came out on digital three months later, and instead just paying one upfront price now & getting to watch it in the comfort of your own home was…kinda nice. No asshole teens on their phones, none of that crinkling of movie snacks, and no chatty Kathy’s (or is it Karen’s now?). So the bitter part was not being able to go to the theaters but the sweet part was watching it together as a family at home when it was supposed to come out anyway, right? Well…the latter part is true. I’m actually glad we didn’t spend tons of money at our local multiplex because the bitter part of all this is that SCOOB! really wasn’t that great.

Say what you want to about the two critically and audience panned live action theatrical Scooby-Doo movies that were written by none other than James Gunn (yes, you read that right), but at least they stuck to the core idea of the gang solving one central mystery. And even though it broke the old television series rules of that “anything supernatural ended up having a natural explanation” to it, narrative wise it kept it’s focus completely on Scooby, Shaggy, Fred, Daphne, and Velma, and it never strayed. Plus, a screenplay that had the balls to make Scrappy-Doo the ultimate bad guy in the first film has to be given some kind of bold credit. The main problem with this new Scoob! movie is that it isn’t so much of a Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine gang solo adventure than it is a Hanna-Barbera Universe Avengers film. It’s like if the DCEU started off with Justice League and not Man of Steel or the MCU with Avengers and not Iron Man 1. It doesn’t work & feels bloated here. There are a shit ton of other Hanna-Barbera characters that make either quick cameos, or are wayyy too much in the story, taking the focus off our core gang. This whole thing…just too many characters. I have a feeling that in the coming weeks this film is going to be given alternate titles to make fun of it, but the first that comes to mind is either: Hanna-Barbera Civil War or Scooby-Doo: Hanna-Barbera War. With the DCEU almost stumbling over itself right out of the gate, and now this misfire (I’ll give it credit for being better than the live action films at least), there is now enough factual evidence to prove that Warner Bros. has no fucking clue what to do with its intellectual properties.

The synopsis of the films is as follows, taken from “Scooby and the gang face their most challenging mystery ever: a plot to unleash the ghost dog Cerberus upon the world. As they race to stop this dogpocalypse, the gang discovers that Scooby has an epic destiny greater than anyone imagined.” And there in lies the problem. The movie tries to add some convoluted mythology to Scooby-Doo’s ancestral origins, and none of it coherently worked for me. The movie has no central mystery to it, the gang isn’t trying to uncover an answer to a problem, or a haunting, or a crime, etc.. If you start to watch this, and wonder within the first 20 minutes what the fuck I’m talking about, that it seems like the same Scooby-Doo you knew from your childhood, you are right. It is. The first 20 minutes of this film are absolutely fantastic. It completely goes off the rails right then afterwards when it turns into a superhero film with crazy superhero film like action and explosions and shit when Blue Falcon & Dynomutt show up and pits all of them against Dick Distardly. If those names sounds familiar, it is because they are Hanna-Barbera characters that had their own shows and who I think didn’t need to be in this film at all. I have mostly tried to stay away from the marketing as I didn’t want to be spoiled by anything. But the marketing at the beginning I did see, was a giant misdirection. The teaser trailer made it seem like it was going to be the younger adventures of the Mystery Machine gang, but then later marketing showed that the film does feature them as adults and features voice talents of famous adult actors and actresses. That’s when I thought the film would’ve been a half and half thing. The first half brings up a mystery they weren’t able to solve as kids but get to finish as adults (the route the film should’ve taken). And that is when the final theatrical poster was released (before COVID-19), with Blue Falcon and Dynomutt on it and that is when I thought, “ohhhh noooooooo, I really hope they aren’t going to do what I think they are going to do.” They did.

Here’s the thing, my kid, and your kids, are probably going to love it, so you in turn might love it as well. And that is exactly why I watched this first without Grayson by my side, so that my opinion wouldn’t be biased based on his joyous face throughout the 93 minute run time. To be fair, the film has a good message about togetherness and friendship, the animation is absolutely gorgeous, and even though I would’ve rather had voice actors that while not the original people, have been doing other things as the characters for years, Zac Efron, Will Forte, Amanda Seyfried, & Gina Rodriguez do an adequate job, and Mark Wahlberg even steals the show as Blue Falcon. But plot, narrative, adventure, story-wise, what have you, the film is severely lacking. Oh, and early 2000s called, they want their Simon Cowell/American Idol references back. The Scooby-Doo original cartoon series was a sort of grounded detective-mystery series first, a slapstick hijinks movie second and an adventure series a distant third. There is no mystery here, it isn’t grounded at all, the hijinks are set to overload and it’s all covered as an outlandish adventure I didn’t really care for. And that’s because there were too many characters. That made it too stuffed which in turn made it too convoluted. Keep it simple, stupid. It should’ve been a cool mystery solo adventure with tiny hints that other Hanna-Barbera characters could eventually join the party down the road and then some solo films of those characters before all of them team up in the ultimate universe movie. But no, it’s a Hanna-Barbera Universe movie just trying to trick you by wearing a Scooby-Doo movie skin. And they would’ve gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for the over ambitious, meddling script.