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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Steve 'Spaz' Williams|
scr Ed Decter, Mark Gibson, Philip Halprin, John J Strauss
voices Kiefer Sutherland, Eddie Izzard, James Belushi, Janeane Garofalo, William Shatner, Richard Kind, Greg Cipes, Colin Hay, Miles Marsico, Jack De Sena, Patrick Warburton, Clinton Leupp
release USA 14.Apr.06,
06/US Disney 1h22
Escape from New York: The gang hitches a ride downtown.
Maybe it's time to put the brakes on the steady stream of animated features. This one is perfectly enjoyable but nothing special--better than those based solely on pop-culture references (Shark Tale, Chicken Little), but nowhere near those that take a more raucous (Shrek) or original (The Incredibles) approach. Place it in the funny but merely time-filling category (Ice Age).
Samson the lion (voiced by Sutherland) is the star attraction at the New York Zoo, but his son Ryan (Cipes) feels inadequate, having never lived in the wild. So he stows away in a container headed for Africa, hotly pursued by Samson and his pals Benny the squirrel (Belushi), Nigel the koala (Izzard), Bridget the giraffe (Garofalo) and Larry the snake (Kind). Adventures ensue, including a scary encounter with a herd of wildebeest and their ambitious leader (Shatner).
The plot is such a Disney staple (child from single-parent home has identity crisis, goes on quest, learns Important Life Lessons) that we never have any doubt where it's heading. The studios are cranking out animated films almost every other week it seems, and they all stick far too closely to the same formula. Each one has minor distinguishing details, but is that enough reason to see it?
This time, the characters are lively and entertaining enough to keep us watching, and the humour is often genuinely funny rather than merely post-modern smirking. As usual, the central characters are the dullest, most predictable elements of the story. But Izzard steals the show with a continual stream of surreal silliness.
The animation is crisp, colourful and constantly on the move. Director Williams has some witty touches up his sleeves that keep things interesting for grown-ups, although rather than actual zoo animals, all the critters look exactly like stuffed toys from the Disney Store. Oh, they are stuffed toys in the Disney Story, are they? Maybe they should have just called this Toy Story 3 so there was no confusion about why the film was made in the first place.
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© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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