Anyone who thinks things will all go according to plan are luckily proven wrong. The directors and writers have plenty of twists on this age-old tale and some serious surprises await (along with a certain level of darkness which I have always felt was required to make a true children’s film play fair with the entire audience).
While many things may seem overly familiar, it’s only because after 70 years in the business it should be expected that you can’t keep things completely fresh. Louis comes across as a cross between Tiger from the American Tail films and King Louie in The Jungle Book. All he wants to do is blow his horn and give you a great big hug. Even Naveen’s assistant Lawrence brings to mind Nathaniel from Enchanted.
Even some of the song sequences could be deemed slightly redundant but thankfully the songs themselves, from Disney mainstay Randy Newman, are immediately memorable and stake their own claim among the classics of yesteryear. The most noticeable are how similar “Almost There” is to “Be Our Guest” or how “Friends on the Other Side” seems like a sequel to “Friend Like Me” and “When We’re Human” calls to mind “The Bare Necessities” as everyone floats along a river bed.
While everything comes together in the end and happily ever after comes full circle, it all moves merrily along and there won’t be a disappointed member in any family. This may not be the best animated film of the year but I would definitely say it ranks right up there in the top three. Only the double whammy of Fantastic Mr. Fox (hands down the best animated film of the year) and Up (which was the surefire pick until Wes Anderson and company showed up to steal the thunder) are better.
When two of the three happen to be from the same production company, yet created in completely different mediums, it shows just how far Disney has come and that there’s plenty of room for all kinds of animation, be it by hand, stop-motion, or computer-animated. Welcome back Mouse House, it’s been too long.
Photo courtesy Walt Disney Pictures