Fall Movie Preview 2011: Animation and Family

This fall is unusually weak as far as family-geared entertainment goes with only two animated films and three live-action offerings. Even those live-action films aren’t “mainstream” so to speak and have been under-publicized projects aiming for the heartstrings. What does all this mean? Expect a lot of money for our two animated options.


The Lion King in 3D (Sep. 16)

Directed by Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff
Written by 29 people
Starring: (voices) Matthew Broderick, Moira Kelly, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Nathan Lane

Summary: If you don’t know the plot of “The Lion King,” you’re not old enough to been capable of reading this blog post.

The Word: Back in Fall 2009, Disney took advantage of 3D by simultaneously re-releasing the first two “Toy Story” films in the extra dimension. The move earned Disney $30 million in North America over the course of a month, so why not earn some extra cash for little-to-no effort? “The Lion King” is the highest-grossing 2-D hand-drawn animated film of all time, so it seems like the best option. Disney plans on just a two-week engagement, but one would imagine they’ll expand it if they like the response.

My Thoughts: There’s a big market for nostalgia, and with a lot of the first “Lion King” fans being old enough to purchase their own tickets, I don’t think this one is just for the kiddies. Parents will likely feel inclined to take advantage of this rare opportunity to take their kids to see one of animation’s very best films on the big screen.


Dolphin Tale (Sep. 23)

Directed by Charles Martin Smith
Written by Karen Janzsen, Noam Dromi
Starring: Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Harry Connick Jr.

Summary: The inspirational story of a dolphin who lost its tale and with the help of a young boy and some marine biologists, found a way to live in spite of it.

The Word: Nothing like suckering people with a good “against all odds” movie that’s based on a true story, especially when it involves an adorable animal … and it’s in 3D. One might best compare this to April’s “Soul Surfer” about a girl who surfs after a shark chomps her arm — i imagine AnaSophia Robb’s character and Winter the dolphin would have been friends. Maybe the real characters they’re based on could hang out in real life.

My Thoughts: Warner Bros. is going for the gut here and hoping that it has something akin to “The Blind Side” based on the way they’re marketing “Dolphin Tale.” Considering I’m without children, all these “do the impossible” tropes have worn thin. I know that if I try really hard I can overcome any obstacle in my path, I don’t need Morgan Freeman to narrate that to me any longer, even as tempting as his voice might be.



Courageous (Sep. 30)

Directed by Alex Kendrick
Written by Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick
Starring: Alex Kendrick, Ken Bevel, Ben Davies, Kevin Downes

Summary: A story of four police officers who in addition to their tough jobs are fathers. When tragedy strikes their homes, they must make tough decisions.

The Word: Alex Kendrick and Sherwood Pictures bring present their fourth drama steeped in faith-based American-Christian values. “Fireproof” in 2008 dealt with a firefighter thinking of divorcing his wife who takes a friend’s dare to delay the process for 40 days to see if they can’t rekindle the flame; “Facing the Giants” in 2006 was an overcoming-the-odds football story and their first film, “Flywheel” was about a dishonest car salesman who become a born-again Christian.

My Thoughts: It blows my mind that a value-espousing film can get a wide release, but here we are. “Courageous” will look to blend drama and (appropriate) humor into a meaningful family experience that inspires faith and courage. I would venture most common moviegoers will have to be quite courageous to go see this one.



The Mighty Macs (Oct. 21)

Directed by Tim Chambers
Written by Tim Chambers, Anthony Gargano
Starring: Carla Gugino, David Boreanaz, Ellen Burstyn

Summary: In the ’70s, Cathy Rush becomes the basketball coach at an all-girls Catholic college. They have no gym and no uniforms, but she hopes to coach them to a championship.

The Word: Here’s your latest coach-something-out-of-nothing sports story, although the backdrop is Immaculata College, a Catholic school,  in the ’70s. The key to any great sports story is that overcoming the odds can’t just be about the level of competition the underdog is up against, but the social naysayers. “The Mighty Macs” will score points for ’70s feminism as well. The film is the debut of Tim Chambers and marks the first prominent role for “The League” star David Boreanaz.

My Thoughts: Since when did fall become uplifting story time? “The Mighty Macs” faces more competition than it otherwise might in any other season. But with no other “family” options in October, could this film do better than expected? Maybe by a smidgeon, but not a ton.



Puss in Boots (Nov. 4)

Directed by Chris Miller
Written by Brian Lynch, David H. Steinberg, Tom Wheeler, Jon Zack
Starring: (voices) Antonio Banderas, Selma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis

Summary: The origin of the legendary Puss in Boots, who must team up with Kitty Softpaws and Humpty Dumpty to save a village from villainous outlaws who’ve discovered an ancient power that could destroy the world.

The Word: Thought you saw the last of the “Shrek” movies, did you? It might be devoid of those central characters, but “Puss in Boots” looks to borrow en masse from that universe. It’s an origin story for Puss, but it’s decked out in Mother Goose characters such as Humpty Dumpty (a creepy looking egg voiced by Galifianakis) as well as Jack and Jill. See if you can find the beanstalk in the trailer too.

My Thoughts: Here’s DreamWorks Animation mooching off its own franchise for a quick buck. It should be a quick millions of bucks too, as no animated offering will hit the market between “The Lion King” in 3D and this film. When that happens, we’ve seen surprisingly high grosses and DreamWorks has also done well for itself in that first November weekend spot for several years, a date that’s usually owned by animation. As for the quality, maybe some good laughs, but I don’t see it as being any better than the last couple “Shrek” films. Did you read that plot summary? This is not following the Pixar golden standard of “story first,” to say the least.


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