Category Archives: Family

#317 La Belle et la Bete

(1946, Jean Cocteau)

“Belle, you mustn’t look into my eyes”

It’s a tale as old as time – a beautiful romantic tale about a young girl enslaved by a beast-man in his magical castle until she is able to turn him into a charming prince through her innocent nature. Wait, that doesn’t sound very romantic at all! Yes, it’s everybody’s favourite children’s story about Stockholm Syndrome, Beauty And The Beast.

However, this isn’t the famous Disney version, this is instead the original French adaptation, La Belle et la Bête. After a wealthy merchant loses his fortune through dealings with unscrupulous people, he finds himself lost in the forest. Upon finding a large castle, he picks a rose from the garden and is immediately caught by a fierce beast-man (Jean Marais), who sentences him to death. However, a deal is made, and he can be spared if he sends his daughter to take his place. And so, Belle (Josette Day) is sent to the castle, where she is imprisoned and must now live with the Beast, who appears to hide a soft side under his gruff exterior. Read the rest of this entry

#275 The Muppet Movie

(1979, James Frawley)

“Kermit, does this film have socially redeeming value?”

Hello everyone. It’s my birthday today. And so, to prevent me from being enraged by an overhyped Hollywood epic or baffled by European arthouse cinema on my day, I picked a film I knew I would enjoy. Today I am reviewing The Muppet Movie.

I love the Muppets. In fact, everyone loves The Muppets. If you don’t like The Muppets, you’re weird. The Muppets are a lovable bunch of silly puppets and the world would be a much worse place without them in it. They’ve made a few movies in their time too, from adapting literary classics with A Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island to the recent release of Muppets Most Wanted. Today, we’re looking at where their cinematic career began, the simply-titled Muppet Movie.

Essentially an origin story for the gang of entertainers, it starts with Kermit The Frog (performed by Jim Henson) playing his banjo in the swamps when a Hollywood agent rows up to him in a boat saying that Hollywood is looking for entertaining frogs. And so, Kermit sets off on an adventure to Hollywood to gain super-stardom, where he meets new friends along the way such as Fozzie Bear, The Great Gonzo and the strangely alluring (to Kermit) Miss Piggy. Shenanigans ensue.

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#252 Pinocchio

(1940, Ben Sharpsteen & Hamilton Luske)

“Prove yourself brave, truthful, and unselfish, and someday, you will be a real boy.”

I’ve covered a lot of Disney movies, it seems, although in actual fact very few movies from Disney’s Animated Canon are on the 1001 Movies You Must See list. In fact, I believe this may be the last one we’ll see. Disappointed that many of your favourites weren’t included? So am I, but there you go.

Pinocchio, as you may know, is the story of a puppet made by the eccentric Geppetto, brought to life by the Blue Fairy and accompanied by the quirky Jiminy Cricket. Pinocchio must learn to be brave and kind and other positive character traits in order to become a real boy and not be taken in by tricksters and turned into a donkey, and mustn’t tell lies otherwise his nose will grow to enormous proportions. Someone gets eaten by a whale too. It’s a weird story.

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#246 The Wizard Of Oz

(1939, Victor Fleming)

“There’s no place like home”

It’s Christmas Eve! You know what that means, right? Yes, of course, it’s time to take a look at an appropriately Christmassy movie! But wait, there aren’t actually that many actual Christmas movies on the must-see list (It’s A Wonderful Life was the main one of only two), so like last year, when I reviewed Babe, I’ll instead be pulling up a family-friendly movie.

In other words, the kind of thing you’re likely to stick on when you’re full of turkey and unable to move. The kind of thing that tends to get added to Christmas programming for that very reason. This year, we’ll be looking at The Wizard Of Oz.

You should all know what The Wizard Of Oz is, surely? Judy Garland plays Dorothy, a young girl living on a farm in Kansas. After a run-in with a grumpy neighbour (Margaret Hamilton), Dorothy runs away from home and ends up caught in a tornado, waking up in the mysterious Land Of Oz. Here she is instructed to find the Wizard who will be able to return her home, and along the way she gathers a rag-tag team of friends in the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), who wants a brain, the Tin Man (Jack Haley), who wants a heart, and the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr), who lacks courage. Throughout their journey they have to watch out for the Wicked Witch Of The West (Hamilton again), who likes to keep trolling them as they move through the land.

Everyone knows about The Wizard Of Oz. It’s cemented its place in pop culture over the years, and has been the subject of many homages and parodies over the years, but has it stood the test of time?

First off, visually it certainly does stand up. Being one of very few movies from the 1930s in full colour, The Wizard Of Oz made great use of its colour palette, presenting a great contrast between the drab sepia of Kansas and the vibrant world of Oz. The transition from sepia to colour was also superb and seamless, performed entirely through a doorway as Dorothy steps out into her new world, and I was genuinely impressed by it.

Some of the effects look a little ropey today, but it’s a movie from the thirties, what do you expect? Despite the obvious man behind the curtain for most of the effects (see what I did there? EH?!?), they do still look pretty impressive, and it’s hard to fault the makeup jobs of Dorothy’s trio of friends, which are a real highlight.

But beyond the visuals, how well does the movie stack up in terms of plot and characterisation? Well, I’m going to be brutally honest here – the plot is ridiculous. Dorothy doesn’t really have much motivation to do anything and her entire job is to stare vacuously at things in amazement. The Good Witch is a persistent Deus Ex Machina that conveniently solves every problem Dorothy encounters. The ultimate meeting with the Wizard results in them getting cop-out rewards for their efforts, and a realisation that none of the movie really needed to happen. And don’t get me started on the logistical issues surrounding the Wicked Witch’s final demise.

But that’s OK. The Wizard Of Oz isn’t even pretending to take itself seriously. The comic performances of the trio prove as much, since they’re all campy and over the top. One liners are thrown about all over the place, including some that still hold up today – I’ll admit I enjoyed the Scarecrow’s “some people without brains do an awful lot of talking” line a little too much. The entire movie just feels too much fun to discredit the plot issues too much, since it’s likely that no one involved particularly cared all that much.

Instead, the awkward plotting and general silliness of the whole thing are the movie’s real charm. It’s a delightful romp of a film that wants to do nothing more than keep you entertained, and does so in a way that so unashamedly happy.

Plus it’s Christmas, so bitching about the movie and saying it’s terrible wouldn’t be in the spirit of the holiday. Instead, it’s a great choice for this time of year, since it’s feel-good silliness which remains charming and lovely and entertaining, even to this day. But you probably watch it every time it’s on TV anyway, so I probably didn’t even need to tell you that.

Starring Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Billie Burke, Margaret Hamilton, Charley Grapewin, Clara Blandick, Pat Walshe and Terry the dog
Written by L. Frank Baum (novel – The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz) and Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson & Edgar Allan Woolf
Produced by Mervyn LeRoy
Music by Herbert Stothart (score) and Harold Arlen (songs)
Cinematography by Harold Rosson
Edited by Blanche Sewell

Favourite Scene: The aforementioned joke about stupid people talking a lot.
Scene That Bugged Me: “Only bad witches are ugly” What a great message for the kids! Ugly people are vicious monsters that want to murder your pets! Wonderful!

Watch it if: It’s on telly. Which it will be.
Avoid it if: You have a severe phobia of whimsy

#206 Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs

(1937, David Hand)

“Who’s the fairest of them all?”

It’s Disney again! This time, it’s the film that started it all. Movie #1 in the Disney Animated Canon. Walt Disney’s pet project designed to show the world that animation could be turned into full length features. But how well does it hold up today?

Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs is based on the famous Grimm fairy tale. Every day, an evil queen (voiced by Lucille La Verne) asks her magic mirror “who is the fairest of them all?”, expecting the mirror to inform her that she is the fairest. She is content until the mirror one day says that a young maiden named Snow White (v/b Adriana Caselotti) is the fairest. In a fit of jealousy, the queen orders a huntsman to take Snow White into the woods and murder her. However, he can’t do it, and Snow White flees and takes refuge with a group of dwarves (note the spelling, Disney!), leading the queen to try and devise an even more gruesome fate for the girl.

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#185 Dumbo

(1941, Ben Sharpsteen)

“I ain’t never seen a elephant fly”

So, after In The Realm Of The Senses last time, I need something to come down from the un-erotic and borderline creepy non-step sex; preferably something more wholesome and refreshing. Do I have any more Disney movies to review?

YES! YES I DO. Here’s Dumbo.

Dumbo is the fourth film in the Disney Animated Canon, and quite possibly one of their simplest. It’s about a baby elephant who gets made fun of because of his big ears, gets ostracised by his fellow elephants following the imprisonment of his mother and eventually triumphs over adversity to teach kids that you shouldn’t make fun of someone with physical deformities, especially if it gives them special powers. It’s basically Disney’s X-Men before X-Men became Disney’s X-Men.

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#150 Toy Story

(1995, John Lasseter)

“YOU. ARE. A. TOY!”

It’s strange to think of a cinematic world without CGI, especially when modern-day family films almost always seem to be computer-generated, with drawn and stop motion animation barely getting a look-in. But it did exist, which is why the arrival of Toy Story was such a revelation. It was the first entirely CGI movie released to cinemas, and it helped change the landscape to what it is today. But does it hold up today?

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#145 Babe

(1995, Chris Noonan)

“That’ll do pig, that’ll do”

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#137 The Jungle Book

(1967, Wolfgang Reitherman)

“The bare necessities of life will come to you”

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#111 The Lion King

(1994, Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff)

“We are all connected in the great circle of life”

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