3 Chipmunks, 2 Sharks and a Dog.

Something of a movie day yesterday. I took my daughter Zoe to watch Alvin and the Chipmunks. She had made some chipmunk ears and pinned her faux leopard skin tail to the tops of her trousers, which might have alarmed an actual chipmunk, but never let a little naturalistic verismo get in the way of a good time I say.

My expectations were low for the fill itself. The original cartoon, which I remember from my childhood hardly made it into my top ten of cartoons and the novelty of novelty songs featuring sped up voices to suggest a rodent ensemble doesn't seem as exotic today as, perhaps, it might once have in simpler times. So, if Peter Jackson can bring The Lord of the Rings alive (btw, I thought the Ents - tree people - in LoTR were the least successful character designs, maybe because they were absurd from the get go - talking, walking trees are less believable than growing Orcs in the mud - I mean who hasn't done that?)…if PJ can bring the vista of Middle Earth vividly to life then how hard can it be to animate 3 singing chipmunks?

The surprising thing about the film is how quickly one is prepared to accept that the little varmints can speak English and sing in harmony. The trick is that three central characters are introduced from the first scene. There is no awkward attempt to explain how or why they can speak. Their various personalities are established as quickly. These days we've been exposed to a lot of CGI so the technical wow-factor has become table stakes. It would have to technically poor to even be noticed. The combination of live action, human characters interacting with invisible colleagues must still be hard and I wonder if acting classes for dealing with blue-screen are offered at the Actors Studio?

I asked Zoe for her review at the end of the show, as we walked back to the car. She offered an unreserved 10/10 tail wiggles and who am I to argue with the target audience? I did laugh out loud in parts. It's fun, formulaic but also charming without the savvy, sly humour of, say Shrek. The lead human character Jason Lee whom I liked in 'My Name is Earl' is a little flat in the role. Mind you, it's a lot different interacting with where a character willbe than playing off Jaime Pressly as a semi-sane ex-wife.

The second movie of the weekend was Death at a Funeral. Not good I'm afraid. The trailer looked appealing but all of the funny parts were paraphrased in the ad. The film lurched along, pivoting on a paltry handful of jokes attached to each of the ensemble cast: Drug dealer nephew - where's my pills, blackmailing homosexual dwarf lover of deceased, cranky shouty uncle, successful brother and loser brother, where's my money? If you like farce, well this one's for you (putting the fun in funeral). I don't recommend it even for a wet day diversion. Get the Muppets TV shows on DVD to see some of director Frank Oz's funnier moments - as Fozzy Bear.

Actually, as I'm on the subject of films; I caught Jaws on television on the weekend. It scared the snot out of me when I was kid. When I swim in the ocean I still hear 'dum dum, dum dum, dum dum dumdumdum' - for no good reason, shark attacks in the Waitemata harbour ar about as likely as a New Zealand politician of any stripe saying anything of significance. I'd forgot some of the details of movie - it holds up pretty well after all these years. Then, of course, a four metre long Great White was sighted near the lower North Island. It swam around a small dive boat for an hour. Gary Porter, one of the divers aboard had a mate hold him by the ankles while he took this shot - (rather him than me)…

Great White Pointer

Full shark story via Stuff


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