Robert Guillaume

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The Adventures of Tom Thumb & Thumbelina Review


OK
I have no idea if there are prior Tom Thumb or Thumbelina movies before this one (actually, I'm sure there are -- I just don't know if they're actually related to it), but this new Adventure certainly features an all-new, all-star cast.

Jennifer Love Hewitt (who's making a cottage industry out of voicing animated heroines) and Elijah Wood (who's making a cottage industry out of playing smaller-than-normal characters) take center stage as the titular leads, ultra-short teens in search of destiny (and quite naturally, one another, though they don't know it yet).

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The Lion King Review


Extraordinary

One of Disney's greatest achievements, this is to my knowledge the only animated film to be turned into a Broadway musical. (Beauty and the Beast doesn't count, since that film had prior life outside the Disneyverse.)

The Lion King is primarily memorable because it's not based on a fairy tale or a children's story, and thus avoids the cliches that saddle so many Disney flicks. There's no "love conquers all" message, no moral about how trying hard will make everything come out OK. In fact, for much of its running time, The Lion King says the exact opposite: Hakuna Matata means "no worries," right? It's in the past, so let it go. But The Lion King also tells us that we can learn from the past, that tyrants should be overthrown, and that we should own up to our mistakes in the end.

This also makes The Lion King one of Disney's most adult movies. Though it's rated G, it features numerous scenes of peril and death -- with lion cub Simba orphaned after his uncle kills off his dad to usurp the throne and title of king of the jungle. But that too is part of the famed Circle of Life. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Simba runs off to live in the jungle -- gettin' real, ya know -- stricken with guilt that he (thinks he) killed his father. Eventually he returns home to showdown with evil uncle Scar, who has been ruling the jungle with an iron fist, disrupting the Circle of Life.

The Lion King is one of Disney's last great 2-D creations, with computers aiding in some truly stellar moments such as the wildebeest stampede. Lots of perspective shots and moving cameras make this one of the genre's most film-like movies.

If there's anything annoying about the film, it's the singing, young Simba sounds like a young Michael Jackson. On the new song added to the just-out DVD release of the movie, the atrociously vapid "Morning Report," he sounds like a castrato Michael Jackson. You almost don't want him to succeed, but thankfully, Simba eventually grows up and is replaced, voice-wise, by Matthew Broderick. By way of other extras, there's a whole second disc of goodies, including an extensive selection of making-of footage, a deleted scene or two, an alternate first verse of "Hakuna Matata," a special home theater audio mix (sounds good), and about a bazillion kid-friendly features like games and singalongs.

The Lion King has rightfully spawned one of the most enduring industrial complexes ever to come from an animated cat. Way to go, Disney.

[]Join the Disney Movie Club and get three free Disney DVDs![][]

Ah, the majesty.

13th Child Review


Unbearable
I can't remember the last time I've seen a movie as thoroughly bad as 13th Child -- fully titled as The 13th Child, Legend of the Jersey Devil--Volume 1.

And I don't mean bad in a Halloween: Resurrection way where you can laugh a bit at the stupidity and go home none the worse for wear. I mean the kind of complete awfulness that Joe Queenan devotes a book to; the kind of terribleness that even the wisecracking robots on Mystery Science Theater 3000 would have had trouble finding jokes for.

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Big Fish Review


OK

A buoyant and evocative, hard-to-believe but easy-to-embrace collection of truth-stretching tales from a modern-day Munchausen, "Big Fish" couldn't be more perfectly matched to the appealingly off-kilter sensibilities of director Tim Burton.

Populated by misunderstood giants, bizarre circus folk, bewildered werewolves, idyllic denizens of hamlets lost in time, and beautiful, genuinely-Siamese twin songstresses, it's a film saturated with the colorful embellishments of one Edward Bloom (Albert Finney), a former traveling salesman whose fanciful yarns have always frustrated his paradoxally practical son Will (Billy Crudup).

Will, who grew up to be a fact-obsessed journalist, is now trying to make some real sense of these stories because his father is slowly dying. Of course that's not what Edward would have you believe. Reminding his son of his supposed childhood encounter with a witch -- a reclusive old woman with a crystal ball where her right eye should be -- he says, "It's not my time to go. I saw it in the eye!"

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