“Ratatouille” and “Bee Movie”: A Comparison

Last weekend, I decided to watch Ratatouille. After watching Ratatouille, I then made the decision to watch Bee Movie, which isn’t exactly the best thing to do. In honor of this viewing, I’ve put together a comparison to aid in anyone’s decision as to what film with a creature frequently viewed as a pest that was released in 2007.

Ratatouille is about a rat named Remy (Patton Oswalt) who dreams of being a chef and ends up helping a hapless garbage boy, Linguini (Lou Romano), in order to achieve this dream.
Bee Movie is about a bee, Barry B. Benson (Jerry Seinfeld), who leaves the hive, falls in love with a woman and finds out the human race has been stealing honey from people. He decides to sue the humans and fucks up the eco system.

Ratatouille is made by Pixar and manages to look realistic and cartoonish.
Bee Movie is not made by Pixar and looks like a cartoon.

Ratatouille not only features the voice talents of Oswalt and Romano, but also Brian Dennehy, Peter O’Toole, John Ratzenberger, Ian Holm, Brad Garret, and Janeane Garofalo. Each of these voiceovers feels more like acting; never once did it feel like an actor voicing themselves.
Bee Movie features the voices of Seinfeld, Matthew Broderick, Renée Zellweger, Kathy Bates, John Goodman, Chris Rock, Megan Mullally, and Patrick Warburton. Except for Zellweger, it feels like the actors are just doing what they usually do. I seriously kept expecting Warburton’s character to pull out a knife and kill someone at various points of the movie. Which would have made the movie a lot more interesting, but really shows just how much Venture Brothers I’ve watched.

Ratatouille does not employ pop culture references with its storytelling.
Bee Movie does employ pop culture references when telling a story. That being said, I did laugh very hard at “Bee Larry King.” (Barry: “How old are you?”) And that was about it.

Ratatouille has Peter O’Toole as the venomous food critic Anton Ego, “The Grim Eater.” And every second of the scenes with Ego is an absolute delight to watch and listen to.
Bee Movie doesn’t have Peter O’Toole. Period.

Ratatouille makes me cry every time when we hear Ego’s review of the titular restaurant in the film.
Bee Movie didn’t make me cry.

Frohe Weihnachten!

Due to the occurrance of everyone’s favorite pagan holiday, posting will resume here after Christmas Day, when I’ll have my two cents on The Princess and the Frog and maybe some theater related posts.

Until then, Merry Christmas everyone!

Dear Young Adult Authors,

Yesterday, I finished reading Ash by Malinda Lo. Although the novel isn’t earthshatterlingly amazing, it is a well written novel with a strong lesbian protagonist. (The book has been described as a lesbian retelling of Cinderella.) It also took a good look at what true love is. In fact, this book is so well written, that Stephenie Meyer would cry because of how well written it is and realize how terrible of a writer she is. (And apologize to the world for writing Twilight. Now I’m just dreaming.)

I would even go so far to say that Ash is the best young adult novel I’ve read in a while. Interestingly enough, the last really good young adult novel I read also featured a gay protagonist. (That novel was Hero by Perry Moore)

But sadly it seems like a lot of young adult novels have shallow, underdeveloped protagonists, many of whom are female. And yet girls are the largest audience for young adult novels. They fall in love with someone for unfathomable reasons and the plot is utterly predictable.

The case only seems to be different for young adult fiction that has GLBT protagonists. And while I do like the existance of well-written novels with GLBT protagonists, I have this to say:

Would someone please write a young adult novel with a heterosexual female character that isn’t shallow and two-dimensional and sets feminism back fifty years?

Review: “The Addams Family”

The Addams Family, which began it’s pre-Broadway run at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts Oriental Theatre on Wednesday, is a very enjoyable musical with terrific performances from several of the actors. But the musical has two problems: it is too long and the characters are underdeveloped, even though there is too much exposition for the family that many people are familiar with.

To clarify, the show isn’t really too long; it simply feels too long. The musical follows the familiar macabre family that was created by Charles Addams as they spend one night trying to entertain (and act normal) around the family of Wednesday’s (Krysta Rodriguez) love interest, Lucas Beineke (Wesley Taylor). The Beineke’s are very conservative Ohioans and a foil to the Addams, giving the show a plot very similar to La Cage Aux Folles.

The musical, which presently clocks in at about two and a half hours, has a lot going for it. As Morticia, Bebe Neuwirth is very refined, elegant and dark and gives a terrific performance in a role that is saddled with a weak plot about Morticia worrying about looking old and being upstaged by her children, which she sings about in the showstopping, “Second Banana.” Neuwirth is not upstaged by either Rodriguez or Adam Riegler, who plays Pugsley, and looks quite fabulous in the low-cut, form fitting black dress she wears throughout the show. Nathan Lane does as best as he can with what he’s been given with the role of Gomez. At many moments, Gomez is a suave man with a Spanish accent and a love for swordfighting and torture instruments. But at other moments, he seems like an immature individual who laughs at his own jokes, which are lost to Mal Beineke (Terrance Mann). The moments where Gomez is the romantic yet demented Spaniard are the moments where Lane has some of his finest moments and that personality is shown in both the numbers “Passionate and True” and “Happy/Sad.”

As for several of the other actors, they are giving performances that are so good that it seems as though their characters are underused. Riegler manages to even be a bit adorable as Pugsley, who laments the possible loss of being literally tortured by Wednesday. As Grandma, Jackie Hoffman is really given nothing better to do than say lines at the end of act one and act two that old characters have been saying in comedies for several years and is hilarious because of her delivery of these lines. In a scene between her and Pugsley, Hoffman acts like a sweet old woman before dropping her voice to tell Pugsley to stay out of her stuff. At the present moment, Uncle Fester (Kevin Chamberlain), acts as a bit of a narrator and commenter, but is also saddled with an odd plot line about being in love with the moon. Even though his number “The Moon and Me” is very tender and uses old theatrical methods to create the illusion of him being near the moon, the plot line suddenly comes out of nowhere towards the end of the show, making it seem very abrupt and lacking in the emotion needed to really draw the audience to the character’s problems. And as Lurch, Zachary James is on stage for only a few scenes and only does much of anything in about three of them, but is very funny as he walks slowly and speaks in low, slow sounds.

Mal and Alice Beineke (Carolee Carmello) suffer from coming into the show late in act one and being rushed through their plots as they suffer a transformation. While Mal’s takes more time and is much more straightforward—although how his passion for his wife is rekindled is disturbing—Alice’s transformation is just downright confusing. Carmello sings a number entitled “Waiting” at the end of act one and while she puts quite a bit of energy and emotion into this number, it comes off as being a hot box of crazy with muddled, incomprehensible lyrics, which may have been difficult to understand since I was sitting in the front row and very close to the 17-piece orchestra. But she sings a very emotional song about waiting, collapses on the table and then tries to find a way to rekindle her romance with her husband. All of this occurs in a short time and feels very contrived because of that.

But above all, the Addams family is overly aware of their oddity, while in Charles Addams’ cartoons and in the TV series and the films, their behavior was to them perfectly normal and the rest of the world was odd. Although, since Wednesday is reduced to little more than an angsty teenage girl in this musical, her over-awareness of her abnormality is understandable.

As for the length, this is the result of quite a few numbers going on for too long of a time. The opening number, “Clandango” is very energetic and busy, but it felt like it went on for several minutes as the actors did a lot of dancing and never really seemed to explain what exactly a clandango was. Another number, “Let’s Not Talk About Anything Else But Love,” is very sweet, but then turns into a bawdy dance number for no explicable reason, other than to maybe pump up the sexual frustration between Wednesday and Lucas. If the number ends before the dance sequence, it works very well.

As for Wednesday and Lucas, even though their conflict is what causes the events of the night to begin, it feels as though there is too much time spent on them. Either that, or Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s book is filled with too much of Wednesday and Lucas’s dialogue consisting of Lucas saying something and Wednesday responding with “That’s hot” for their problems to really matter because their lines and problems are now very clichéd. Rodriguez also gave a very monotonous, robotic performance in the first act, but loosened up by the second act.

Andrew Lippa’s score, although in need of some pruning on some numbers, utilizes a wide variety of musicals styles from flamenco to power ballad to pop rock that sounds terrific when played by the orchestra. Co-directors and co-designers Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch have a grand, majestic set for the family’s house that almost is a show in itself as it moves around to show the exterior, the interior and the various rooms with several panels and doors and windows for the characters and Basil Twist’s elaborate puppets to enter and move around on. It is a rare instance where a set can be very extravagant but seem necessary and work beautifully with the play without being a distraction.

The Addams Family is certainly kooky at this moment. But with some pruning of the numbers and some more development of the characters, the show could also be creepy, mysterious and spooky and altogether ooky.

“The Addams Family” runs through January 10, 2010 at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts Oriental Theater at 24 W Randolph St. Tickets range from $28 to $105 and can be purchased at all Broadway in Chicago box offices, by calling 1-800-775-2000, or by going on to http://www.BroadwayInChicago.com

In keeping with the new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations that unfairly discriminate against bloggers, who are now required by law to disclose when they have received anything of value they might write about, please note that I did not pay for a ticket for this show.

No More “Donuts” (and other thoughts…)

(What did you expect? A better title?)

I’m a bit late with this–I’ve been wifi-less for the past few days–but Tracy Letts latest play, Superior Donuts, is going to close on January 3.

It received positive reviews, but not the gushing, enthusiastic reviews that August: Osage County did. (Although, I’m not sure how many shows do.) I didn’t get to see it, but I’ve read good things from bloggers that did see it and enjoyed it like it was a hot, fresh doughnut from the Krispy Kreme shop near my apartment. (But more filling than a doughnut is.) I had hoped to see it when I might be venturing out to New York, but since that won’t be before January 3, it seems as though I won’t be able to see it.

In his column today, Michael Riedel did his usual doomsaying for the revival of Ragtime, which is another show that I heard great things about and wanted to see. The rumored closing is apparently because of the so-so grosses (which are better than how some shows are doing on Broadway).

While there’s also this news, the New York Times informed readers of something everyone already knew with an article entitled “On Broadway, Shows With the Biggest Names Get the Fullest Houses.” Although, now it’s not just any celebrity. Sure, Julia Stiles and Bill Pullman are pretty big, but Oleanna is closing this Sunday. And Michael McKean was in This is Spinal Tap. Big names now means the biggest names, like Hugh Jackman, Daniel Craig, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Angela Lansbury, Carrie Fisher, and Jude Law.*

I know that this will sound old, but it is sad that very few plays on Broadway can’t survive on good reviews and word of mouth alone. (Translation: It’s sad that Broadway can’t work like Chicago theater where a show with good reviews and buzz at a storefront theater can be a hit.) I’m not just saying that because there are a lot of shows that I’d like to see when I’m in New York that aren’t running when I’m there, it’s just becoming very evident that HUGE celebrities in plays on Broadway does put butts in seats. Some celebrities might be perfect in those roles, and in the case of Fisher, she’s in her own one-woman show, but business isn’t always logical or make sense. (Cue up the song “It’s a Business” from Curtains.)

Anyway, there’s always Christopher Walken looking for his fecking hand in A Behanding in Spokane to look forward too.

In keeping with the new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations that unfairly discriminate against bloggers, who are now required by law to disclose when they have received anything of value they might write about, please note that I have received nothing of value in exchange for this post.

(thanks to Steve On Broadway for the disclaimer.)