Thursday, December 31, 2015

Pixels (2015) Review:

Although video games have not been around as long as the car or other significant technological advances, it certainly has an equal amount of an impact in today’s' society. Which only started as a couple lit up dots on a screen in the early 70s, has turned into a worldwide phenomenon of competitions of expanded universes with detailed landscapes as far as the eye can see. It's amazing looking at the transformation of video games. The time that was most nostalgic for much of the older generation was during the 1980s when video gaming was starting to become a big thing. Kids around the nation would line up in front of buildings filled with arcade machines looking to spend their 25 cents to see who would be the next gaming king. It was a time when things were much simpler but still just as fun. French director Patrick Jean had an interesting idea. What would it be like if the video games we used to play with began attacking our world? What would happen?

pixels-3.jpg (2837×1892)
The "Arcader" team
For the two-minute short film that Jean provided, it was a unique idea. For this big screen production of Jean's idea, the concept remains the same but now it has things added to it that don't make it as fun. Adam Sandler plays Sam Brenner, a frustrated electronics repairman who longs for his gaming days back in the 80s. However he gets this opportunity after what appears to be old video games attacking the city. So he gathers up his associates, Cooper (Kevin James), Ludlow (Josh Gad) and Eddie (Peter Dinklage) to help fight back. With a screenplay penned by Tim Herlihy (a frequent Sandler collaborator) and Timothy Dowling (Role Models (2008)) knowing what might be included in the story ended up being predictable. A major element that wasn't necessary to include was the love interest subplots for multiple characters. Practically every main character has a struggling relationship with somebody and they all look to better themselves.

Brenner ends up meeting a divorced mom, Violet (Michelle Monaghan) only through forced exposition of her son. What child talks to a stranger like that? There's also Ludlow's fantasy of being with Lady Lisa from a game he plays. Even Brenner's childhood rival Eddie wants to be with Martha Stewart and Serena Williams. All these threads tally up and just pad the film making the momentum slow down. Oh and don't forget the potty humor - a trademark of Happy Madison productions. There's also a series of plot contrivances that make no sense and a number of noticeable continuity errors that add to the confusion of how some video game characters are more developed than others are. A blatant example is Q*bert; how does he have a conscience but not Pac-Man? Even with these problems, this could've been tolerable if the characters were funny. Unfortunately very few are. Kevin James plays one of the goofiest presidents seen on screen and Josh Gad plays it mostly awkward the whole time.

Sandler occasionally spews out a line worth of a chuckle because he's trying to sound like an old timer, but it's not often. The rest of the time he just sounds like he's saying whatever came to mind at the time. It doesn't even matter that Sandler is cast with his usual buddies but at least switch up the role. His female co-star is equally sporadic. Dinklage just being snobby stuck up gamer was the best part. There are other appearances from credible actors like Brian Cox, and Sean Bean but they end up being wasted. It's sad that all these issues are just as powerful as the positives. For direction at least, Chris Columbus headed this project instead of Sandler's regulars. The visuals are a nice too. The special effects that make up the video game characters and how they pixilated the surroundings is wonderfully colorful. The director of photography was Amir Mokri (Man of Steel (2013) & Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)), a guy who has plenty of work dealing with blockbuster scope films.

Q*bert's sad he wasn't used to his potential
The other bonus of to this movie is the nostalgic factor. For those who really enjoyed playing games like Asteroids, Q*bert, Frogger, Super Mario Bros., Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Centipede, Duck Hunt, Tetris, etc. - the fact that seeing these iconic games on the big screen is awesome looking. It does kind of go back to how video game movies don't work though because a gamer would rather play and be interactive than submissive and just watching a game happen. Lastly, the film score was decently made too. Composed by Henry Jackman (this would be his second video game score - his first being to Disney's Wreck-It Ralph (2012)), the score lacks a main theme but does keep the energy moving throughout the action scenes. Even for the slower scenes Jackman has tunes that sound okay. And of course, since this is a film that hearkens back to the 1980s, the soundtrack does include 80s bands like Loverboy and Queen. They even got Daryl Hall and John Oates to play a cameo. That's awesome.

The good is equally countered by the bad. It has decent music, colorful special effects, clear cinematography and a large nostalgic factor based on its library of retro video games. Sadly all this is bogged down cliche casting and character development, hit and miss comedy and not enough focus on the video games.

Points Earned --> 5:10

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Transformers: The Movie (1986) Review:

For the toy company of Hasbro, one of their most successful cartoon TV adaptations and iconic staples among many children are the transformers robots. Who knew that such a simple idea of a robot that could transform into item that we are familiar with everyday could be so entertaining? To many, the TV series is what made the toy line even more fun for people because at that point, they had characters with personalities and backstories that made them somewhat relatable to their viewing counterparts. Twenty years later or so action director Michael Bay got a hold of the rights turned it into even more of a phenomenon, spawning sequel after sequel. While seeing how popular the concept had become it's important to take note that the "robots in disguise" characters originally had their own animated movie two years after its official TV airing. With that said, expectations should be different for this viewing. The problem is even with a different set of expectations; the end result is disappointing. There is effort here, but it lies among a pile of questions.

"Look at my detailing!"
The story takes place in the midst of war between the Autobots lead by Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and the Decepticons lead by Megatron (Frank Welker). During this period they are interrupted by a massive cybertronian planet known as Unicron (Orson Welles) looking to destroy anything with life and can only be stopped by the matrix of leadership. The premise at first is acceptable but once immersed into the conflict all buildup is lost. Penned by Ron Friedman (who wrote for a lot of other TV shows), this feature length film was actually a connecting point between seasons 2 and 3 of The Transformers TV show. This is the immediate problem for several viewers. For those who never saw the TV show, are now required to see seasons 1 and 2 before even thinking about viewing this movie. On top of that, there are numerous characters listed and seen throughout the run time but yet are not mentioned, given backstories to or even speak dialog. This makes it all the more difficult for a viewer who is not familiar with the TV show.

Then there's the whole plot, which originally stated seemed easy to follow. However as the viewer watches, they will notice that for Unicron's motivations and background go untouched. Why does Unicron want to destroy all life and where did he come from? Why does he destroy his own kind? Even the plot point of the matrix of leadership isn't very clear. How does it keep Unicron from doing its business? All these questions go unanswered in the form of convenient contrivances. Perhaps this information was given prior in the TV show? Again though, how would this win over new viewers if they've never seen the show? This lack of exposition can make the viewing feel quite empty. Nonetheless there are still some elements that provide enough saving grace to keep this movie at an average level. One of the more noticeable things is for anyone who saw Michael Bay's live-action franchise before this, they will at least be able to point out any of the characters they've seen before but in their 80s version.

Another positive is the voice-actors cast for the characters. Of the most popular you can't go wrong with is Peter Cullen who will always be Prime and Frank Welker who is practically anybody and anything else. There are also vocal appearances for Grimlock, one of the dinobots (Gregg Berger), Shockwave (Corey Burton), Jazz (Scatman Crothers), Bumblebee (Dan Gilvezan), Starscream (Chris Latta), Blurr (John Moschitta Jr.), Hot Rod (Judd Nelson), Galvatron (Leonard Nimoy), Ultra Magnus (Robert Stack) and Kup (Lionel Stander). But the voice that stands out the most of this bunch is none other than the voice of the late Orson Welles. Although it was reported that Welles hated his role, the magnitude of his voice-work at which it is used for the massive planet destroyer is gleefully astounding. Welles voice is so deep and booming that it matches the look and presence of this memorable character with ease. Imagine if Welles voiced a character today? Holy moly.

Helping at least make what's left of this product somewhat enjoyable is the overall visual design and animation. Directing this movie was Nelson Shin whose main expertise is being an animation director. So although he wasn't heavily involved in the actual steps of animation, his supervision was still critical. Other animators like Satoshi Urushihara (Akira (1988)) also worked on this project and most of the animation looks great. The entire look of the film has a very anime inspired feel to it, making the detailing on a lot of the backgrounds and close up shots look very intricate. Lastly, the musical score composed by Vince DiCola is actually well put together. Although he tried his best to score Rocky IV (1985) as his first attempt, his style just didn't match. Here however, DiCola feels like a better fit because of his reliance on synth musical instruments. It centers on robots so why not?  Also Stan Bush's "Touch" single is quite the catchy song. It rings all the more 1980s to anyone looking for a blast from the past.

It's not the movie some fans of the newer films may expect it to be. If you never followed the TV show then it will be confusing to understand much of the plot devices, extra characters and their motivations. This is where it fails. Yet even with that, it's hard not to enjoy the anime-style detailed animation, appropriate electronic musical score and respectable voice cast, including a final stoic performance from the late Orson Welles.

Points Earned --> 5:10

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

James and the Giant Peach (1996) Review:

Nowadays, the concept of stop-motion animation is quite unpopular. Thankfully it hasn't died but it is unfortunately not resorted to that often anymore. During the early 1990s, this classic and unique animation technique began getting dropped from film projects because of its "next best" replacement - CGI. With the demonstration of Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), that CGI could be controlled and used correctly, many movie studios want it to be in their upcoming projects. For that reason alone, stop-motion animation was left behind when it came to live-action films. But there were others who thought differently. Also in the early 1990s The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) was released to the public and became one of the greatest holiday films of its decade. Behind the wheel of this vehicle was a small time filmmaker named Henry Selick. Since then his filmography has been quite small but to this day has made sure his films contained stop-motion in it. His second feature would be just as memorable to kids who grew up during this time and that was this.

"But first, let me talk a selfie,..."
Based on a children's book by Roald Dahl, the story is about a English youth named James (Paul Terry) who looks to visit New York City but lives under the strict rule of his aunts Sponge and Spiker (Miriam Margolyes & Joanna Lumley) after the death of his parents. Then, unbeknownst to him, a stranger (Pete Postlethwaite) appears and gives him magical trinkets that'll help make his dreams come true. This arrives in the form of a giant peach that harbors future insect friends. These characters are Mr. Grasshopper (Simon Callow), Mr. Centipede (Richard Dreyfuss), Mrs. Ladybug (Jane Leeves), Ms. Spider (Susan Sarandon) and Mr. Worm (David Thewlis). The adaptation of Dahl's book was written by Karey Kirkpatrick (Chicken Run (2000)), Jonathan Roberts (The Lion King (1994)) and Steve Bloom (Jack Frost (1998)) and for the majority of the film, it's practically the same. Plus, the character development and overall message of the story is well thought out and optimistic.

The character development focuses on learning to accept one's differences and understand how each individual brings unique benefits to certain situations. The overall message in the story is to never stop believing and always look on the positive side of things. These are life lessons that everyone needs to know about no matter how old you are when viewing this film. For acting, although Paul Terry quit the profession not long after this film, for a child actor he's not bad (or annoying). His appearance is innocent and feels genuine in physical form and voice work. Miriam Margolyes and Joanna Lumley as James' aunts are quite the opposite and they do it well. Being gross and greedy is their shtick. The supporting cast of voice actors who bring James' bug friends to life are enjoyable too. Simon Callow as Mr. Grasshopper plays quite the upperclassmen that isn't snooty enough to talk to someone below his level. Richard Dreyfuss as the wisecracking centipede has a number of funny lines either when it comes to himself or certain situations he's in.

Jane Leeves as Mrs. Ladybug is sweet and also shows feminine strength when called for. David Thewlis as Mr. Worm plays with a Scottish accent and sometimes fears the worst but too learns to cope. Lastly Susan Sarandon as Ms. Spider uses a Russian accent and although she's a bit colder than her counterparts, she too has a charming attitude. However even with these positives the writing isn't perfect. One of the screenplays biggest blunders is its continuity. There were moments where claims are made about certain dangers and yet a minute later, the labeled danger will no longer be a threat for unexplained reasons. Another example is how James and co. weren't able to find their way to NYC without a compass, yet a map that James has clearly shows them which direction they are traveling as they move. Seems a little pointless to go find something that'll help you when you already have what you need. The other problem is that the way this story was written is the strange reality that James' lives in feels illogical.

That animation though,...=)
For this, there are certain things that should have an expected facial reaction but the exact opposite is portrayed. It just doesn't look right. For animation, as mentioned before stop-motion was used and it looks great. The jagged and tangible like edges to the characters give them a likable visual appeal. The live-action is also well done too. This also goes hand-in-hand with both live-action and animated cinematography provided by Hiro Narita and Pete Kozachik respectively. Narita's work efficiently shows the contrast between James' past and current life and how all the fun was sucked out of it. Kozachik on the other hand effectively conceals the illusion of various matte painting backdrops to help make the animated world feel bigger than life. Lastly Randy Newman composed the film score a year after the massive success of his work on Disney's Toy Story (1995). Here Newman's music feels like his, but also has bits that sound like Danny Elfman got in on a few areas too. Either way it is fun to listen to and with its catchy songs.

The script has decent character development and has important life lessons for people to reacquaint themselves with despite it having some noticeable continuity errors. Also some characters react oddly to certain implausible situations as if they were entirely acceptable. This aside, the characters are charming, the music is enjoyable and the visuals are delightfully engaging with the help of stop-motion animation.

Points Earned --> 7:10

Monday, December 21, 2015

Scrooged (1988) Review:

For a person like Richard Donner, it would seem difficult to make a film that rides close to the middle of being just okay. Considering he's only directed a handful of films of which many of them gained lots of praise or went on to be cult films, it's surprising when moments like these happen. Richard Donner headed Superman (1978), The Goonies (1985) and Lethal Weapon (1987). So for this, it's even more confusing when a well-respected director is paired up with decent writers and a cast of good actors. For comedy legend like Bill Murray, being in popular movies like Caddyshack (1980), Stripes (1981) and of course Ghost Busters (1984), how can a pairing create an output so okay-ish feeling? It may be hard to believe but it is in fact a film that's better than average but only marginally. Apparently it was reported that Bill Murray and Richard Donner did not get along during production either so this could be why. Things could have always been worse though I guess.

"Say cheeeez"
The film screenplay is another alteration of the classic Charles Dickens story of the Christmas Carol. Here Murray plays Frank Cross, the head chair of a major TV studio that loves finding and attracting any viewer they can find. Until on the night of Christmas Eve, Cross will be given a chance to redeem himself as a better person. Written by Michael O'Donoghue (an SNL writer) and Mitch Glazer (probably his best known writing credit), the script to this holiday comedy can be hit and miss. For example, the studio will do anything it can to make sure its the hottest thing being watched, whether its making parody films of classic Christmas tales, straight out desecrating them or even making channel programs that appeal to cat and dog viewers. It's a bit of stretch there, especially the last one. A lot of these incidents feel over exaggerated and feels forced on the audience like they're supposed to believe that people would accept such things and find it believable.

What is a nice change of pace is Richard Donner's directing skills. The story execution is fairly predictable but there are some various changes to the script that make it feel like effort was put in to make sure it doesn't feel like an exact copy. Much of this is due to the supporting cast being so helpful in their comedic timing and how they knock up Murray's character. John Forsythe as Cross' dead business partner has possibly the best introduction than any other ghost who visits him. David Johansen as the taxi driving ghost of Christmas past is the second best character with his no-cares given attitude. Perhaps the ghost who gets the cutest and most violent personality is Carol Kane as the ghost of Christmas present. There's also characters played by Karen Allen (Cross' ex), Bobcat Goldthwait (the voice of XL from Buzz Lightyear of Star Command (2000)), Robert Mitchum, Michael J. Pollard and Alfre Woodard playing a Bob Cratchet-like role. Then there's Bill Murray who is surprisingly the exact opposite.

It's not that he is unfunny because there are occasional scenes that do produce a laugh, but the problem is he produces the least amount. Yes, Cross is supposed to be unfeeling but even unfeeling characters can have some kind of charm; but Murray doesn't pull it off. It's more obnoxious than charming. Another problem in the script is sometimes the story will spin off the main focus from Cross' development as a character and just wonder back into his reality to do whatever. It's distracting. Back to positives though, a visual element that works in this films favor are the special / practical effects. The special makeup effects creator / designers behind those scenes were Thomas R. Burman and Bari Dreiband-Burman (The Goonies (1985)& Die Hard 2 (1990)). There's also special effects supervisor Eric Brevig (Total Recall (1990), Hook (1991) and Men in Black (1997)) who shows that even before big Hollywood blockbusters he still had the talent needed to make things look good.

Karen Allen ^_^
Thankfully another visual treat is Michael Chapman's cinematography. Chapman is also the cameraman for Taxi Driver (1976), Ghost Busters II (1989), Space Jam (1996) and Six Days, Seven Nights (1998) all of which had decent lighting and steady movement. Also Chapman's work mixes evenly with whatever special or practical effects were put to screen. Lastly is Danny Elfman's score to the film that oddly enough sounds like a precursor to his future score for The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). Sadly though, his score here feels underdeveloped. It is clear that its Elfman's signature theme with chanting choirs in a minor key, but after the title card appears it disappears for quite a long time. Then out of nowhere it rears its head and then abruptly vanishes again. Viewing Lala Land records website, it seems like there was a lot of material that wasn't used. It's also a shame when not even the original composition is that prevalent in the final product. What gives post production? Either way, when heard it is enjoyable.

This holiday comedy does have some unique mutations with its direction in the script, but it also suffers from its main lead (Bill Murray) not being that funny and the main story sometimes jumping around. Thankfully the camerawork is able, the creature effects are well crafted, the music (although not abundant) is appropriate and the supporting cast adding to the laughs.

Points Earned --> 6:10

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Southpaw (2015) Review:

Sports dramas are not uncommon among film studios. Almost every sport has received some kind of a film rep at some point. The most popular of these events probably would go to the boxing industry. Much of this was garnered either from actual boxing celebrities like Muhammad Ali or actors who portrayed their character in the ring like Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull (1980). Of the boxing films however, the franchise that would go down as the best known would be Sylvester Stallone's Rocky (1976) series. What worked with Stallone's franchise was how well grounded and retable its characters were. For this film, there's a certain texture that's brought to the table that not many other filmmakers could put on display for mass audiences. A combo of director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day (2001) and King Arthur (2004) and writer Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy (2008) headed this visual style. And for what it's worth, everything made in this feature shows that everyone was invested in it. It still has its shortcomings though unfortunately.

"You got something on your shirt...."
The story is about the tragic fall and redemption of top-of-his-game boxer Billie Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) who loses his wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) after a fatal "accident" during a press conference. Making things worse is that his daughter Leila (Oona Laurence) is taken into child protection services. The idea itself has been seen before, but again the presentation to how viewers will see this story may feel different. Stallone's Rocky (1976) had grounded characters; so does Fuqua but he also grounds the very surroundings of the character. Even while Hope's family lives in luxury, the outside world feels gritty and cold. This is that combination mentioned earlier - Fuqua's direction and Sutter's script do a great job at demonstrating just how nasty things can get before anything gets better. That's also not excluding language and violence. Every scene has a much rougher tone to it, giving it that edge that makes it feel like its more adult oriented. Sadly this is where it falls flat in some places.

While it is Kurt Sutter's first screenplay, it is hard not to criticize him for penning a script with such a tough persona and yet following up with a story so safe. Perhaps this is because the premise has practically given everything away before the movie is even seen. When the only turning point in your film for the main character is when a key player is killed off, it kind of sets up the audience to already know how things will end. Everyone enjoys a well-respected return but it's also very predictable. If the loss of Hope's wife weren’t announced in the premise, maybe the death would've been a little more of a throw-off than a plot setup point. So the question is, why make a script with a tone so hard edge only to play it safe like every sequel made after Rocky (1976)? Sutter's only other flaw in his script is that after Hope's loss, the subplot of his wife's murder goes unsolved. It's not even mentioned as to if Hope just wants to forget or feels the rematch was enough - but it at least should be mentioned why.

However, besides these clerical issues everything else does work its best to make you forget about it. Jake Gyllenhaal and Oona Laurence have believable chemistry as a young father and daughter. Gyllenhaal definitely goes all out with his tough guy persona and pulls it off. Considering he's gone through multiple transformations for a lot of his films, it's no surprise here. Even for McAdams reduced role, she too is enjoyable to watch. Plus the supporting cast is well worth it. Forest Whitaker and 50 Cent provided good contrasts to the paths Billie Hope could take and whom he sides with in success. Young actor Skylan Brooks also helps bring some development to Gyllenhaal's role. Then there are appearances from Naomie Harris and Victor Ortiz. As for Hope's main antagonist Miguel Escobar (Miguel Gomez), the motivations are very two-dimensional. Although they could have been more developed, the focus was on Billie, not Escobar.

Rachel McAdams
The boxing matches were well staged and look believable too. There weren't a lot of matches for anyone who wanted a lot though. Helping make the fights feel as real as possible was Italian cameraman Mauro Fiore, who frequently works with Antoine Fuqua. Not only does Fiore keep the camera steady and only highlight what needs to be lit, but he also changes the perspective of some shots. For example, the camera will shift from a theatrical lens to found footage (but professionally) where the camera would be either Hope or Escobar's eyes during the fight. Since this involves movement, the camera won't be steady but it does give the viewer a brief minute to immerse himself or herself into the match as if it were a video game. Lastly, the music composed for the final time by James Horner before his untimely passing is not as immediately recognizable as some of his other works, but it still has its moments. The created tunes can move its audience because of the raw emotion the actors use and how the music plays out with solo piano and strings. A good last effort.

It does have a lot to be entertained with considering how believable the acting is, the emotional music, involving boxing matches and inventive camerawork. Yet with a tone that indulges in having less fluff, more rough, gruff, tough and buff, the script shouldn't play it so predictably. The outcome to this film can be seen even before the movie starts.

Points Earned --> 7:10

Friday, December 11, 2015

Noel (2004) Review:

During the holidays, Christmas is thought to many of being the most enjoyable time of year. Rightfully so. With all the bouncy and energetic music, it's difficult not to feel like there's something to be happy about. Then again, not everyone will be as happy as others will and that's understandable too. Not everything goes well during Christmas. All kinds of unfortunate and crappy things go down that remind people every year why the holidays stink (according to them). When telling a story there's nothing wrong with telling either end of the mood, but it would seem slightly more difficult for the negative view point because of how the season is perceived overall. Sadly the creators behind this film rather missed the point. It does have areas that endear to make sure the viewer watching the film tries to feel something, but as to what that is, is another story. Directed by Chazz Palminteri (mostly known for acting) and written by David Hubbard (his only holiday film credit) lack the required expertise to make this film an effective watch.

Susan Srandon & Robin Williams
The script is set up like another ensemble cast picture where a number of character threads come together and influence each other. Susan Sarandon plays a middle-aged loner who only focuses on work and cares for her unresponsive mother. Paul Walker and Penélope Cruz play a couple looking to get married but struggle with their own trust. Lastly is Marcus Thomas playing a lazy bum looking to relive one moment of his childhood for another year. All of these stories take place during Christmas Eve of where each main thread receives a special gift in some fashion. Of them, there are also appearances from Alan Arkin and Robin Williams. The stories sound okay but the way they're executed flat out underplays its own premise. Most of the stories are schmaltzy (which is average) but it's the wildly uneven tone that makes it hard to deal with. At first the story starts out normal to almost upbeat but then immediately drops to dreary and almost uncomfortably melancholy. Adding to that are the numerous contrived plot development moments that seem too convenient for its own good.

It's the mix of these problems that can make it difficult for audiences to connect with these characters. For a holiday film, it doesn't focus much on it and its tone is too melodramatic to feel like one. Regrettably this is not the end of its issues either. Making it more frustrating is the editing handled by Susan E. Morse. Having more than enough experience to know what makes a film flow easy, the editing between scenes are choppy and feels rushed when following the individual stories. Yet somehow, the pacing feels more than 90 minutes. How does that work? Plus few to almost no characters have the smallest bit of charm to them. Of the actors, Robin Williams and Paul Walker show more emotion than the rest even with their underdeveloped roles. The rest of the cast struggles to show any likability because of how troubled their characters are required to be. Of all this, the entire screenplay itself has trouble conveying its overall message.

Even the critically panned film Reach Me (2014) had characters with flaws and was able to make a positive moral statement out of it. There's no real lesson a viewer can take away from this other than "miracles happen". Whenever that is. That's not to say the concept doesn't exist but the majority of viewers will already know this. Visually, the camerawork is appropriate. Russell Carpenter was head of cinematography for this feature. Although his work wasn't anything to note of in Jean-Claude Van Damme's Death Warrant (1990), he did prove himself later with James Cameron's Titanic (1997) and Charlie's Angels (2000). Here it's about the same. All scenes are well lit and look aesthetically appealing. The musical score provided by Alan Menken thankfully was another plus. For although the actual tone presented on screen fluctuates between appropriate to overly downbeat, Menken's work tries endlessly to make the viewer feel something.

"What are you lookin' at?"
Working on films in the past like Disney's Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), Pocahontas (1995) and Hercules (1997), which are films that have balanced emotions throughout their story should be proof enough that he knows how to work music. Even after wrapping up, the score continues to try and get someone's emotions stirring and by that it's not desperately doing it. It literally felt like there was something to care about but there wasn't. The sound itself is created through a series of strings mixed with choral progressions and piano cues to help give it that seasonal Christmas touch. This is not enough to save it though, there just isn't an adequate mixture of components to help make this collaborative work feel like a whole. Maybe a holiday film wasn't what they were aiming for but when your film's title says a Christmas related name on it, people will think "holiday movie".

It's an ensemble cast movie that wastes its given talent with a script filled with unnecessary twists, all-too convenient character development to feel anywhere relatable and an uneven tone to match anything close to the holiday spirit. Even though they show the most emotion not even Paul Walker and Robin Williams can help the script. The camerawork and music also do their job right but feel a bit late to be fixing anything.

Points Earned --> 4:10