Last night I watched a triple feature of CGI-animated children’s movies released in 2010 that were supposed to be pretty good, or at least that’s what the arrested-development comedians on podcasts I listen to said, and I had finally gotten desperate enough in my procrastinating avoidance of doing anything useful with my life to resort to watching them.
There are a whole lot of parental issues being worked out here. The nerdy protagonists of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and How to Train Your Dragon are both fueled by their built-like-a-refrigerator fathers’ lack of acceptance, and in Tangled, Rapunzel has to fight through her adoptive mother’s expertly-orchestrated web of lies, negging, manipulation, guilt-tripping, and smothering declarations of affection. The emotional fraughtness of family relationships in these movies are surprisingly well-written, and if everything, as always, ends up being resolved by a Big Loud Manic Setpiece, I guess that just means these movies were made in the last twenty years. (The relatively small scale of Brave’s story is looking better and better; I keep thinking of the miniscule scale on which Wodehouse plots are turned, because in the back of my mind I’m never not thinking about Wodehouse, and the unbelievable hugeness of the stakes in Meatballs and Dragon, especially, are just exhausting after a while.)
I laughed most at Meatballs — it’s genuinely funny, not in the “throw in some comic bits of business to keep ’em entertained” sense, but in a really sharp, satirical, and thoroughgoing way — I was charmed the most by Tangled — both the strong character writing and the gorgeous, painterly use of light did exactly what they were supposed to do to me — and I was most suspicious of How to Train Your Dragon, because both the scrawny-nerd-saves-the-day plot and the medieval-fantasy setting were exactly the kind of thing I would have eaten up as a boy, but it did just enough to undercut the nerd-entitlement mindset, and had enough good character bits and interesting designs to pass muster, though it was definitely the worst of the three.
Not interested in seeing another movie where a misunderstood boy genius eventually wins over the hearts and minds of his community, not to mention the ultracompetent girl, for a good long time though. How about we get more stories about the ultracompetent girls?