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- Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Road Chip
- Hotel Transylvania 2
- Snoopy And Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie
- The Good Dinosaur
Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Road Chip 3 stars
Dave has been dating Samantha for several months. Alvin, Simon and Theodore would be delighted except Samantha's teenage son Miles bullies them mercilessly. The chipmunks discover an engagement ring in Dave's bag and realise that their pal is poised to go down on bended knee. This would be a disaster because the trio would have to suffer Miles for the rest of their lives, so they hatch a cunning plan to sabotage the relationship before Dave can produce the ring.
- GenreAction, Adventure, Animation/Cartoon, Comedy, Family, Family
- CastJosh Green, Jason Lee, Matthew Gray Gubler, Justin Long, Jesse McCartney, Kimberly Williams-Paisley.
- DirectorWalt Becker.
- WriterAdam Sztykiel, Randi Mayem Singer.
- Duration92 mins
- Official site
Love is in the air in the fourth instalment of the Alvin And The Chipmunks series... but not for long if the helium-voiced furballs get their way. Walt Becker's ramshackle road movie contrives a flimsy excuse for singing rodents Alvin, Simon and Theodore to want to sabotage the flourishing romance of their surrogate father. Of course, the mischievous trio learn the error of their ways en route to a sentimental reconciliation that emphasises the importance of family over fame with all the subtlety of a swift kick to the sternum. Randi Mayem Singer and Adam Sztykiel's script trades in recycled humour and repeatedly makes pointless narrative detours to allow Alvin, Simon and Theodore to perform their high energy cover versions. Thus the chipmunks swing their hips to Gloria Estefan's Conga at the mere mention of Miami and a detour to New Orleans provides the perfect excuse for a toe-tapping rendition of Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars' disco-flavoured floor filler Uptown 'Munk during Mardi Gras. Dave (Jason Lee) has been dating Samantha (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) for several months and decides to introduce his sweetheart to his surrogate children. Alvin (voiced by Justin Long), Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler) and Theodore (Jesse McCartney) should be delighted, except Samantha's teenage son Miles (Josh Green) bullies them mercilessly when the parents' backs are turned. The chipmunks discover an engagement ring and realise that Dave is poised to go down on bended knee to Samantha during a business trip to Miami to promote the album of superstar Ashley Grey (Bella Thorne). Wedding bells toll disaster - the trio will be stuck with Miles - so the chipmunks hatch a cunning plan to sabotage the proposal. "People look out for themselves. It's what animals do," snarls Miles, who was abandoned at an early age by his no-good father. He pledges support to Alvin, Simon and Theodore to prevent another man from hurting his mother. The quartet embarks on disaster-prone misadventures from Los Angeles to Miami including a tangle with a tenacious air marshal (Tony Hale). Meanwhile, the feisty Chipettes - Brittany (Christina Applegate), Eleanor (Kaley Cuoco) and Jeanette (Anna Faris) - begin their stint as judges on TV talent show American Idol. Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Road Chip is cast in the mould of previous films, replete with bouts of chipmunk flatulence and slapstick humour. Hale's relentless air marshal is the butt of most of the jokes, including a face plant into a road sign during one madcap chase. Lee is reduced to looking exasperated or proud as required. Polished digital effects seamlessly blend the rapping rodents with exaggerated real life, including one scene at a courthouse that comes surprisingly close to genuine heart-tugging emotion.
Hotel Transylvania 2 3 stars
The great and the good of the monster world gather at Hotel Transylvania for the wedding of vampire Mavis and her human beau Jonathan. They raise an adorable son called Dennis and consider moving to California to raise the child among other humans. Dracula is devastated - he believes that any heir to the bloodline should be raised in Transylvania, surrounded by other monsters.
- GenreAnimation/Cartoon, Comedy, Family, Family
- CastAndy Samberg, Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi, Kevin James, David Spade.
- DirectorGenndy Tartakovsky.
- WriterRobert Smigel, Adam Sandler.
- Duration89 mins
- Official sitewww.hoteltransylvania2.com
If the Twilight film series taught us anything, apart from how long werewolves spend in the gym to maintain their hirsute washboard stomachs, it's that forbidden desire across the vampire-human divide always ends in copious blood-letting and tears.
And if a love child of this unholy union comes mewling into the world, a sequel surely beckons. Once bitten, twice the box office takings. Genndy Tartakovsky's computer-animated family comedy obliges by considering the thorny parenting issues for a slacker dude and his fanged bride, who can't decide if they should raise their first child among monsters or mortals.
You could argue that war-mongering, power-hungry mankind is far more deadly than the ghosts and ghouls that haunt the frames of this lively and colourful romp. However, harsh reality has no place in Tartakovsky's fantastical adventure, with a screenplay penned by Robert Smigel and Adam Sandler that sidesteps the carnivorous natures of some of the cutesy characters.
As one vampire rejoices, "We don't need to kill any more. We have pop tarts," which begs questions about the ingredients of the jam that oozes from the toasted breakfast treats.
The great and the good of the monster world gather at Hotel Transylvania for the wedding of vampire Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez) and her mortal beau Jonathan (Andy Samberg). Mavis' proud father Dracula (Adam Sandler) welcomes Jonathan's nervous parents, Mike (Nick Offerman) and Linda (Megan Mullally), to his humble home for the nuptials, which pass without a hitch.
Mavis falls pregnant and gives birth to an adorable son called Dennis (Asher Blinkoff) and the couple consider moving to California to raise their child among other humans. Dracula is devastated - he believes that any heir to the bloodline should be raised in Transylvania, surrounded by other monsters.
So he takes little Dennis on a journey to all of his favourite ghoulish haunts, aided by good friends Frankenstein's monster (Kevin James), Griffin The Invisible Man (David Spade), Murray The Mummy (Keegan-Michael Key), Wayne Werewolf (Steve Buscemi) and Blobby the Blob (Jonny Solomon).
As Dennis' fifth birthday approaches, Dracula waits nervously for the boy's first milk fang to sprout, which will be proof that he has vampire blood coursing through his veins. "He a late fanger," insists Dracula. "All he needs is time with his vamp-pa!"
Hotel Transylvania 2 strikes the same jaunty tone as its predecessor, treading a linear narrative path so young audiences remain engaged by little Dennis' rites of passage. Visuals burst with primary colours, even in 3D, and the script exhumes mouldering, corny gags with relish.
Vocal performances are solid if unremarkable, including a fleeting vocal turn from Mel Brooks as Vlad, Dracula's estranged father, who hasn't always been the best role model for his boy. The family that hunts together - safely off screen - stays together.
Snoopy And Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie 3 stars
Charlie Brown develops a crush on a Little Red Haired Girl, who moves in across the street. Unable to talk to her, even with the encouragement of Snoopy, Charlie resolves to catch the girl's eye by winning his school's talent competition. His plan goes horribly awry and he becomes the laughing stock of his school. Meanwhile, Snoopy daydreams about becoming a First World War fighter plane pilot and protecting his pooch sweetheart Fifi from the notorious Red Baron.
- GenreAdaptation, Adventure, Animation/Cartoon, Comedy, Family, Family
- CastNoah Schnapp, Madisyn Shipman, Francesca Capaldi, Hadley Belle Miller.
- DirectorSteve Martino.
- WriterBryan Schulz, Craig Schulz, Cornelius Uliano.
- Duration93 mins
- Official sitewww.peanutsmovie.com
If unabashed sweetness is your weakness then you will be completely helpless in the company of Snoopy And Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie. Written by Craig and Bryan Schulz, the son and grandson of Charles M Schulz, Steve Martino's film marries the old-fashioned, wholesome sensibilities of the syndicated comic strips with state-of-the-art computer animation.
The episodic nature of the script suggests that several bite-size adventures for the titular pooch and his self-doubting master have been sandwiched together and passed off as a fluid narrative. It's candy floss filmmaking: colourful, sugary and easily digested, expertly spun out of hot air by a vast team of talented animators, who have managed to replicate familiar character designs in shiny 3D.
The Peanuts Movie is a big, heady whiff of nostalgia. It's hard to resist the innate charm and vulnerability of Charlie as he laments his inability to talk to the new girl at school ("I just came down with a serious case of inadequacy!") and searches for inspiration in a self-help book entitled 10 Ways To Be A Winner. Everyone loves a trier.
Charlie Brown (voiced by Noah Schnapp) faces his nemesis - the Kite-Eating Tree - and once again comes off second best to Mother Nature. "You'll never get that to fly. Why? Because you're Charlie Brown!" snorts Lucy (Hadley Belle Miller). The luckless lad refuses to be downhearted. "Charlie Brown is not a quitter," he tells himself.
Soon after, a Little Red Haired Girl (Francesca Capaldi) moves in across the street with her family and Charlie develops the most terrible crush. "She's not that pretty," grumbles Lucy dismissively. Unable to talk to his new neighbour, even with the encouragement of Snoopy (Bill Melendez) or his chums Peppermint Patty (Venus Schultheis), Linus (Alexander Garfin) and Pig-Pen (AJ Tecce), Charlie resolves to catch the girl's eye by winning his school's talent competition.
His plan goes awry and he becomes the laughing stock of the school. Subsequent attempts to win the affection of the Little Red Haired Girl by learning to dance, and writing a school report on "Leo's Toy Story by Warren Peace" also end in humiliation.
Meanwhile, Snoopy daydreams about becoming a First World War fighter plane pilot and protecting his pooch sweetheart Fifi (Kristin Chenoweth) from the notorious Red Baron. As dogs of war go, he's irrepressibly cute.
Snoopy And Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie is a delightful, gossamer thin diversion. In an age of increasingly sophisticated, multi-faceted animations, Steve Martino's film harks back to simpler and unabashedly sentimental times of linear storytelling and wholesome messaging.
Laidback vocal performances include archive recordings of Melendez as Snoopy and Woodstock. The main feature screens with an animated short, Cosmic Scrat-astrophe, which follows the acorn-fixated sabretoothed squirrel from the Ice Age series into outer space.
The Good Dinosaur 4 stars
Prehistoric beasts thrive including a family of Apatosaurus comprising patriarch Henry, his wife Ida and three children Buck, Libby and Arlo. A tragic accident robs the siblings of their father and soon after, Arlo falls into a river and is swept far away from his loved ones. Lost in the wilderness, Arlo meets a feral cave boy called Spot, who becomes the dinosaur's protector. Beast and human child embark on a magical adventure to return Arlo to his home in the shadow of the Clawed-Tooth Mountains.
- GenreAdventure, Animation/Cartoon, Children, Children's, Comedy
- CastFrances McDormand, Jeffrey Wright, Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright.
- DirectorPeter Sohn.
- WriterMeg LeFauve.
- Duration101 mins
- Official site
Four instalments of monster mashing in Jurassic Park have taught us to be thankful that an asteroid supposedly impacted Earth around 66 million years ago and wiped out the various prehistoric predators. Pixar Animation Studios begs to differ. Director Peter Sohn and his animation wizards conjure an alternate version of events: the ill-fated asteroid bypassed our third rock from the sun, allowing Tyrannosaurus Rex and other hulking beasts to thrive. Consequently, the evolutionary food chain is reversed: dinosaurs learn to talk, build homes, raise dysfunctional families and expand their horizons while humans are an untamed species that roams the wilderness on all fours and communicates in crude howls and growls. It's a cute concept that provides a solid foundation for Sohn's life-affirming tale of friendship and loyalty, inverting the touching central relationship of How To Train Your Dragon with similarly teary-eyed results. At the heart of the film is a family of Apatosaurus comprising patriarch Henry (voiced by Jeffrey Wright), his wife Ida (Frances McDormand) and three children Buck (Marcus Scribner), Libby (Maleah Padilla) and Arlo (Raymond Ochoa). They own a farm and work hard to harvest crops for the bitter winter months. "You got to earn your mark by doing something big for something bigger than yourself," Henry teaches his offspring. A tragic accident robs the siblings of their father and soon after, Arlo tumbles into a raging river and is swept far away from his loved ones. Lost in the wilderness, Arlo meets a feral cave boy called Spot (Jack Bright), who becomes the dinosaur's protector. Beast and human embark on a magical adventure of self-discovery, bound for Arlo's home in the shadow of the Clawed-Tooth Mountains. En route, they fall foul of villainous Velociprators and a scavenging Pterodactyl called Thunderclap (Steve Zahn), and befriend a Tyrannosaurus herder called Butch (Sam Elliott) and his rootin' tootin' children Ramsey (Anna Paquin) and Nash (AJ Buckley). After the heartbreak, hilarity and narrative sophistication of Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur is a step backwards for Pixar. The plot is formulaic and predictable, and the finale is drizzled in emotional syrup. While the script lacks daring and invention, the visuals are truly jaw-dropping and push the boundaries of photo-realistic animation on the big screen. Gentle humour is concentrated in the opening hour, before the obligatory harsh life lessons including one pivotal scene in which Arlo and Spot communicate their loss and loneliness through actions rather than words. The pay-off is an emotional gut punch that has become the studio's trademark. The Good Dinosaur screens with the charming short Sanjay's Super Team directed by Sanjay Patel in which a young Indian boy daydreams about three Hindu gods becoming superheroes.