The BFG (1989)

Last week, Netflix announced that they were going to make an animated shared universe based on Roald Dahl’s stories. While this confusingly includes the likes of Going Solo, Dahl’s second autobiography, for the most part it’s not as bad an idea as it sounds. Some of the books already have a shared universe (Wonka chocolate appears near the end of The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, for example), and if they’ve gotten the rights to make Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator (which Dahl forbade to be made after he was dissatisfied with Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, something which made 2005’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory end without an opening for a sequel), they must be doing something right.

As you can tell, several of Roald Dahl’s stories have already been adapted as either movies or tv specials, and despite him being one of my favourite authors as a kid I didn’t watch as many as I could. That isn’t to say I didn’t watch my share: I liked the two versions of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as well as Matilda as a kid, I watched BBC’s version of Esio Trot when it aired, I saw Fantastic Mr. Fox in theaters and came out unimpressed (and this movie is one I want to get to again soon), and I had the DVD for this week’s movie. I can’t say I was overly optimistic going into it, due to remembering extremely little and knowing that I chose to watch the other movies much more than this one. But then again, this movie got a standing ovation by Dahl at its screening, so it can’t be that bad, can it?


The BFG is an animated family movie adapted from the Roald Dahl of the same name. After Sophie witnesses the Big Friendly Giant (almost always simply called BFG) blow a dream into the window of a nearby house, she is whisked away by him to keep him secret. After learning that he doesn’t eat children (unlike the other giants of Giant Country), she is introduced to his world through the disgusting snozzcumber, the delightful frobscottle, and dream catching. After another dream blowing session is interrupted by a giant coming to eat children who live near Sophie’s orphanage, she hatches a plan to try and bring an end to their terror.

Obviously, no adaptation is a perfect 1:1 to its source material. However, this movie does come pretty close. It has been a while since I’ve read The BFG, admittedly, but nothing plot relevant seems to have been removed. Hell, they even had Sophie witness a kid get eaten by a giant, albeit off-screen. The only things I can think of being removed is a scene where the BFG gets all the other giants to fight each other, and unfortunately my favourite joke from the end of the book (which is completely understandable due to its dark matter, but has the dry British humour which is just perfect for the story). In exchange, some scenes have been extended. The finale has been changed to better benefit a movie, there’s a red rat-like creature that is introduced to the movie that has its existence justified in the climax, and drinking frobscottle has been given a song (which I’ll get to in a moment). While the resolution of the film remains generally the same, what happens at the very end is changed to better fit a movie, and I see no real problem with it.

Overall, the source material is incredibly imaginative, and the movie does an excellent job in capturing it. However, much like the original story is largely about Sophie learning about Giant Country, the majority of the movie is world building. This can be fine for some people, and for others make the movie feel like it’s dragging on. But personally, I was left with a feeling that nothing much of substance was happening. I feel that you could boil down the important parts of the plot into about the same length of an average tv episode, about 30 minutes. It wouldn’t be very good, but it would be possible. This means that the majority of the movie ends up feeling like filler. This didn’t stop me from enjoying it to some degree, but overall I feel the story fundamentally works better as a book than a movie.

Now. The frobscottle song. This movie has a couple of songs, most of which I completely forgot beforehand and can’t remember the tune of even while writing this review. They’re fine, inoffensive, but literally just serve to extend a scene which would probably only take a few seconds to a couple of minutes. Whizzpopping (named after what frobscottle does, which in human terms is farting hard enough to propel yourself through the air) is much the same in its purpose. However, this song is one I locked into the recesses of my mind long ago, and now that I’ve watched this movie again? I can’t for the life of me get “Whizzpop, whizzbang, feel the bubbles go down” out of my head. Is it a good song? Eh, it’s alright, though the verses can be hard to understand through the BFG’s accent, especially the first with its fast paced talk-singing. As such, it doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, but consider this paragraph a warning regardless. If you watch this movie, this song will never exit your head. You may think you’ve forgotten it, but it’s only a matter of time before it emerges again.

On the visual side of things, this movie is distinctly cheap. I thought it might be due to when it was made, but no, this was the same year as The Little Mermaid and All Dogs Go To Heaven. It does that trick you often see in older cartoons such as the classic Hanna-Barbera titles, where they have a painted backdrop and animate the characters over that. However, they never go out of their way to make these backdrops particularly dynamic or interesting. The only time there’s anything moving is with this strange vortex which appears at the beginning and whenever someone is going from England to Giant Country, though what it really is is never explained. Besides from that, there’s a London street, the inside of the BFG’s home, the barren Dream Country, the barren and drab Giant Country, and the inside of Buckingham Palace. Besides from the latter and the BFG’s home for the first few minutes when you’re first shown a part of it, none of these are overly interesting to look at.

As a result of this, as well as how there’s rarely more than two characters on screen at any given time, the movie can feel almost static at times. This isn’t helped by most of the human characters (including Sophie, the only human character seen for a good two thirds of the movie) being relatively stoic. They emote just fine when they need to, but for the most part their expressions seem mild. Of course, this could simply be because the other major figure of the movie is the BFG. Thanks to having a much larger face and overall frame, he has an almost impressive amount of detail for the animation quality. Mixed with his emotional extremes, he demonstrates a wide range of exaggerated emotions that the rest of the characters sorely lack.  But for some strange reason, some characters having such cartoony expressions would be impossible. While most of the characters in the movie are drawn in the established style, when the Queen appears she is drawn seemingly intent on keeping the likeliness of Queen Elizabeth II. This alone would be understandable, albeit standing out from the established norm, but then the soldiers seen later are also drawn to be closer to real life than a caricature. It’s almost infuriating, because I can’t seem to find any explanation on exactly why they chose to do this. Maybe they didn’t want to insult the brave men fighting on Britain’s front lines against the well known giant threat? I don’t know.

In Summary

While The BFG gives everything you’d want from an adaptation of the story, that includes a plot that doesn’t lend itself overly well to a film due to its emphasis on world building. Mixed with the cheap animation, you’ll come out of the movie with no significant impression, except for “Whizz pop, whizz bang” plastered on your brain. If you don’t want to see The BFG on-screen, there’s nothing here for you.


Do you remember watching this movie? Want to tell me how the 2016 movie fixed everything I complained about, or anything else? Please leave a comment!

Godzilla (1954)

I won’t beat around the bush here: Godzilla (especially in Japan) is one of the biggest characters in cinema. He’s the face of the kaiju genre, has the longest continuous movie franchise with 28 films released since the mid 50s, and is so well known Toho have opened legal battles to stop people thinking the character’s in the public domain. I haven’t watched many giant monster movies myself, with 2005’s King Kong and 2014’s Godzilla being the only ones I can think of, but even I know how big a deal he is. This has gotten me thinking about what his original movie was like.

The original script was notably different from the movie we ended up with. It featured much less destruction, changed the relationships between some of the human characters, and the reveal of the titular kaiju came later. On top of that, Godzilla was much closer to an octopus in the original outline than a dinosaur, and went through a gorilla phase early in production. Initially, it didn’t pay off. In spite of being the eighth highest attended film that year in Japan (and the second most attended Godzilla movie to date), reviews were mixed at best. It wasn’t even a decade after the two nuclear bombs were dropped at the end of World War Two, making it come off to some as exploitative. Hell, even the fact that it featured a giant monster was held against it, strange as that may sound today. According to the director, it was only once the film was released to better reception in America when opinions started to change. And that was after 2 years, so how has it changed after 64?


Godzilla is a 1954 Japanese giant monster movie released by Toho. A giant, ancient creature is woken from its slumber at the bottom of the sea near Odo Island after Japanese H-bomb tests. First destroying nearby ships, Godzilla expands his destruction to Odo Island and ultimately Tokyo, all the while the citizens of Japan argue over whether to study it or kill it before it destroys them all, if they even can.

Before I get started on anything else, I feel like I need to address the human cast of the movie. I thought that the people in kaiju movies being very stock (for lack of a better term) was just a stereotype, but unfortunately, in my opinion it rings true for this film. I can’t speak for their actual skill not speaking the language, though it seemed at least passable (though every time the female lead cried, it always seemed like she was smiling beforehand, which seems like a strange inflection). But at no point could I remember, or even really care, what their names were. Only one of the main characters, the man the female lead is supposed to marry, has a key role in the plot. The female lead and the man she wishes to marry only serve to get him to where he provides that role. Everyone else is just a talking head, relating information to the audience without much care for who they are. This person is here to tell us about the history of Godzilla, this person is a straw man for people who think the dangerous thing should be researched instead of instantly destroyed, this man will tell us about the island’s culture, and so on.

This is especially notable in the first act of the movie, where everything seems to be at a breakneck pace. Following the initial scene of a ship being destroyed, each scene contains just a few sentences expositing information about what has happened, what people are thinking, and how people (mainly the islanders of Odo) are reacting. Once the information is given, there’s a wipe transition to another scene, where even more information is dumped. It wasn’t painful to watch, though, more odd. I’m sure it was necessary at the time, needing to build up a type of monster that didn’t really exist at this point. But these days, with how people instantly know what to expect from Godzilla and even just the difference in how films are made, I feel like it could have been made considerably better. It could give us information without setting aside twenty minutes to exposite it non-stop, or even just exclude some of the more unnecessary info. I’d say my issue with the film’s pacing ends with the first reveal of Godzilla, but even that feels rushed. You’d expect the reveal for one of Japan’s biggest names to have a large build up, having parts of his body revealed first before slowly showing the full picture, almost like was done with the Xenomorph in Alien. But no, you’re shown Godzilla poking his head over a hill, giving more a feel of “Yep, that’s the monster for the next hour” instead of the much more desirable “Oh my god what is that thing”.

First impressions aside, Godzilla does feel like a genuine threat in this movie. This is what I was most worried about going in, all my exposure of early Godzilla being clips from later films when he started to slide on his tail to dropkick an enemy or propel himself through the air through his atomic breath, for example. No, this is a serious and somber warning message about nuclear weapons, and the film knows it. There may have been a couple of awkward moments (the aforementioned initial appearance, a later scene where it looked like Godzilla had googly eyes, and when Godzilla exits the water he looks like a kid playing in the bath), but for the most part I wasn’t watching a man in a suit, I was watching an unstoppable titan. Even if it was obviously models Godzilla was destroying, that didn’t take me out of the experience at all.

This is where the true strength of the movie lies. Once you’ve got past the brunt of the exposition and into the second act, the film becomes highly engrossing. They try and kill Godzilla through depth charges, they bring in experts from around the world, they build massive electrical wiring as tall as Godzilla around the coastline, they do everything they can to stop Godzilla in some form. And in each scenario, Godzilla no-sells whatever’s thrown at him, and continues to wreak havoc. This is probably at its height during the scene where the kaiju attacks Tokyo, with the character wanting to see Godzilla studied watching the ruins in horror, with the next day showing hospitals crowded out with people both bearing physical injuries and radiation poisoning. Granted, between this and the final lines of the movie (which warns of more Godzillas should humanity not stop nuclear weapon tests) the anti-nuclear sentiment can feel heavy handed, but with how Japan was only so recently affected by the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, even looking on the film now it’s excusable.

But for as good as the middle of the film is, the film’s ending feels extremely anticlimactic. While I feel that spoilers is not something I should really be worrying about on a blog where everything I review is 5 years old at a minimum, I’ll still refrain from explicit spoilers in case whoever reads these reviews wants to watch the subject matter themselves. Visually, it’s very unclear. We know what’s happening, thanks to a demonstration earlier in the movie, but what was then an instant effect now becomes really drawn out, all the while Godzilla is masked so it’s hard to tell what exactly is going on. If we weren’t explicitly told the fate of him, you’d be easily excused for thinking otherwise. Music-wise, an oddly somber tone is playing, sending off mixed messages. Granted, as aforementioned, the final lines are the promise of more Godzillas with no way to fend them off should nuclear armament continue, but it plays long before then. The entire movie you’re told ‘Godzilla is a menace, Godzilla will destroy everything, those who think Godzilla should be studied due to the invaluable information it could contain are sorely misguided’. But now, when they might have a genuine chance of killing the beast, the soundtrack suggests we should feel sorry for him. This isn’t an avenue Godzilla movies should never take, especially when looking at him in a more animalistic sense, something unaligned rather than an active force of good or evil, but it contradicts the tone set up in the preceding 90 minutes.

In Summary

Whether you’re looking for a giant monster movie or a nuclear allegory, Godzilla will provide what you want, and should be recognised for starting the kaiju genre. Its flaws can’t be ignored, however, with the great parts of the movie sandwiched between an exposition-filled start and a tonally confused anticlimax.


Do you remember watching this movie? Want to tell me how the ending is a work of cinematic brilliance, or anything else? Please leave a comment!

Pixar Shorts (1984-2000)

In 1974, Alexander Schure brought together a group of computer scientists, all of whom shared a desire to create the world’s first computer animated film. However, no matter how much money Schure poured into the project, they needed help. Six of them left the project and joined Lucasfilm, developed several technologies essential to computer generated animation, and became an independent hardware company to tide the time until they finished their project after Lucasfilms experienced a sudden drop in revenues. They were bought by Steve Jobs, who suggested they started selling to the public to increase revenue. As part of the pitching and advertisement, the newly independent company showed a short animated feature they created using their hardware: Luxo Jr., Pixar’s first short under their own name.

This week, I’m going to try something different from my usual reviews. Instead of looking at a single movie or cartoon, I’m going to be reviewing the first seven Pixar shorts. They’re only going to be short reviews due to being, well, shorts, but that’s why I’m making up with quantity. There’s not much else I can say here due to everything differing between shorts, so let’s get on with it.

Pixar Short 1 - Andre

While Luxo Jr. was the first short created by Pixar as Pixar, they first created The Adventures of André & Wally B. in 1984 as The Graphics Group under Lucasfilm. And this film was extremely important for medium, using motion blur, complex 3D backgrounds, manipulable shapes, all things that we take for granted today. However, there is a slight problem in that this short film isn’t exactly good. I will put aside how it looks, for practically the first of its kind I think it can be excused for the very basic character models even while looking back on it, but it really doesn’t feel like there’s a plot.

What happens is that André wakes up in a forest, and a bee flies up to him. He tricks the bee into looking the other way, wiggles his eyebrows at the camera, then runs away. The bee chases, they crash off-screen, and as the bee flies away he’s hit by André’s hat. All the while the sound makes it feel like they took an excerpt from a Donald Duck cartoon, with André’s ‘speaking’ being unrecognisable noises and a musical score plays in the background.

Really, I can’t say anything else. The maybe two jokes that are there fall flat and while things happen, there is no plot. That being said, I would say watch it. It’s only two minutes, and it gives you a sense of how far Pixar has come.


Pixar short 2 - Luxo Jr.

From the one no one’s heard of to the one everyone has, 1986’s Luxo Jr. was given its cinematic release alongside Toy Story 2, while also appearing on the home release. It’s a very simple plot (something which is a trend with these shorts), but at least it has one unlike the previous short. A parent lamp watches their child play with a small ball before the child breaks it. The child sadly hops off, before returning excitedly with a much bigger ball, having the parent shake its head. That’s the only real joke here, and it falls flat in my opinion, but the humour isn’t the focus of the short. I feel it’s more about how these lamps act, how they move, how they manage to convey a lot of emotion in spite of literally just being lamps, even when looking at this as a form of entertainment as opposed to a tech demo. And really, it’s fine as that.

Going off of my sound comments in the last short, I feel like I have to be hypocritical here. Really, it’s the same as The Adventures of André & Wally B. in that the characters make nonsense sounds (though this time I don’t even know what to liken the lamps to) while a music score plays. But here, the score is a piano piece which suits itself much better to backing music and in my opinion sounds better, and there’s much more sound effects to direct your attention towards the characters as opposed to the music. And while the sound effects are nonsense, there’s just something unique about it. I want to say iconic, but that’s likely just because they’re the same sounds we hear over every Pixar logo in their movies.

All in all, it’s still a fun watch. But as iconic as it is, there’s nothing here that makes me think it’s necessary to see.


Pixar Short 3 - Red's Dream

A year after Luxo Jr., the only short under Pixar’s name that wouldn’t get released alongside any of their full movies was made: Red’s Dream. It’s all about a unicycle in the clearance section of a bike shop that dreams of being used by a clown, before juggling and performing for itself. Red then wakes up, and sadly wheels back to his clearance corner. And that’s it, nothing really happens here. Even in The Adventures of André & Wally B., there is a clear relation between characters, each action leads to another thing happening. Here, Red just dreams it’s in the circus, then is back in reality. The main point is probably to make us feel sorry for the unicycle, but I don’t feel there was nearly enough time spent setting up an emotional connection to Red compared with showing it perform.

Not only does the story lack what it’s hoping for, but the actual animation doesn’t look good. Red itself doesn’t look too bad, nor do the bikes in the shop, but everything else feels off. The buildings in the establishing shots feel fake, the puddles look more like mercury than water, and something about how the rain falls into them feels off. The worst of it all is the clown in the dream. It clearly shows that this is Pixar’s first short featuring a human. Granted, he is stylized to not making him look as bad as he could, but it’s still a very notable detraction from the already poor short. There’s not much to say about the music, either. In the first short it seemed to want to be the main focus, in the second it was good, here it’s stock and incidental. I won’t be saying anything about the music the following reviews since there isn’t much to be said, it does its job and not much more.

I wasn’t aware of Red’s Dream‘s existence until watching the Pixar’s shorts, and there’s a reason for that. It’s not painful to watch, but there’s certainly nothing here worth your time.


Pixar Short 4 - Tin Toy

Tin Toy was released alongside home copies of Toy Story, and is much more clearly its precursor than anything preceding it. The plot here is the most developed one so far. A one man band toy waits to be played with by a baby, but after seeing it treat its toys roughly runs away. The baby chases after it due to it playing while it moves, before the toy hides underneath a sofa, finding a bunch of other toys shaking in fear. The baby falls and starts crying, leading to the one man band going to it to cheer it up, then following it around as it proceeds to play with a bag instead of it. Admittedly, the best joke here comes at the end of the credits (“No portion of this movie, including its sound track, may be reproduced in any manner or we won’t be your friends anymore”), but I don’t think the ones in the short are as bad as the ones in the preceding ones. All in all, writing-wise it isn’t great, but it’s pretty decent.

With Red’s Dream, I said that stylizing the clown made it much more tolerable than what it could otherwise have been like. The reason I say that is because Tin Toy features a realistic baby, and it’s horrifying. Its movements are stiff, its nappy looks more like a cast that’s too big for it, its head is far too big, it’s pure nightmare fuel. The Tin Toy itself, on the other hand, looks pretty good with some decent detail. It and the other baby’s toys at the beginning do look like their real life counterparts, which is especially good for this early era of animation. But all the toys under the sofa look like they came straight out of The Adventures of André & Wally B., and all in all the short looks generally bad when inevitably compared with Toy Story.

In spite of being the first computer animated work to win the best animated short film Oscar, this short is pretty so-so. On its own it’s alright, its only real failure being the baby’s looks, but it’s only hurt by the unavoidable comparisons with Toy Story.


Pixar Short 5 - Knick Knack

Knick Knack was the last short Pixar would create as a hardware company, and the last short they would make for 8 years. It goes back to being about a single concept as opposed to a developed story, that being of a snowman in a snow globe trying to escape said snow globe to join the more summery tourist trap souvenirs.

I can’t decide what I think of how this short looks. On one hand, compared with the titular Tin Toy of the previous year’s short, they look decidedly worse. In spite of being later on, none of the toys have the same level of detail as Tin Toy. Granted, given the nature of the souvenirs they’re likely to not look as great, but there’s nothing to compensate for it, nothing that makes me go “Hey, that looks great.” But on the other hand, it almost gives the short this stylized feel. I don’t know how intentional that is, hence by indecision, but it is a way of looking at the short that would make it more enjoyable.

But, for the first time out of the shorts, it has humour which works. Taking inspiration from Tom & Jerry and Chuck Jones, to make up for the simple concept most of the short is taken up with the snowman taking increasingly drastic measures to escape his snow globe, with each effort failing and the snowman suffering for it. It certainly isn’t the best example of animated slapstick, but it’s decent. Not only that, but while I said before that the music for most shorts aren’t worth mentioning, I think that the improvised a capella accompanying Knick Knack gives a unique and enjoyable feeling to it.

Not much to say here. Poor visuals, but enjoyable humour and music. Certainly one of Pixar’s better pre-Toy Story works.


Pixar Short 6- Geri's Game

While watching these shorts, Geri’s Game was the first one that really felt like Pixar to me, likely thanks in no small part to having finished Toy Story the previous year. Released alongside the following year’s A Bug’s Life, Geri’s Game looks at the titular Geri as he plays a game of chess against himself. As the short progresses, you stop seeing him move around the table and instead see the two sides instantly without one interrupting what he’s doing to get up and move, up until the point where Geri tricks Geri and wins the game. Against himself. A sad story of loneliness when you actually think about it, but a fun tale while simply experiencing it.

With the difference in times comes greatly improved animation. All of the props, from the chess pieces to the wooden table, look decent, if cartoony. And Geri himself, I am happy to say, does not look nightmarish in the slightest. The model isn’t perfect at all, you can see hard lines on the face and hands that haven’t been completely smoothed, for example, and the wrinkles on his forehead and around his eyes look like they were cut into a claymation figure as opposed to actually being part of a person. However, I feel that it’s just enough to make Geri look stylized, looking good in spite of his flaws (I want to say almost comic book like, but I’m not sure if that’s the right analogy). The better quality model also allows Geri to be much more emotive than previous Pixar short humans, and Pixar takes full advantage of that. Even with them being the same person, a clear personality difference is set between the calm and studious Geri playing white and the quick playing, arrogant Geri playing black. It gets to the point where you stop thinking about this being a man playing against himself, and instead start rooting for white Geri as he starts to get stomped.

As for humour, it’s present, but I’m not sure exactly how much counts as explicit jokes in my opinion. Everything comes from the situation he sets up, how Geri chooses to turn the tides upon losing, and what the stakes of the game were. It’s humorous, but I don’t think there’s any real punchlines. I do want to emphasize this isn’t a criticism. After watching an episode of Back Street Girls: Gokudolls, I know and fully appreciate how you can take a funny scenario and fail to make anything entertaining out of it. It’s just the style of the short, for lack of a better word.

As I said, this is the first Pixar short to really feel like a Pixar short, and is understandably good because of it. Give it a watch.


Pixar Short 7 - For the Birds

Geri’s Game is a very good short that sets up what Pixar shorts feel like. For The Birds is an excellent short that perfects that Pixar short feeling. It’s the reason why I decided to make this review 7 shorts long, but it’s also the one I’m having the most trouble in describing. The best I can describe it is that it’s about a flock of small birds who end up getting annoyed by a much bigger, much dumber bird while sitting on a power line. But as everything that I’d need to properly describe this short is a joke, I can’t really go into further detail.

As you can probably tell, this is another of the pure comedy shorts. But unlike the previous two shorts, where there’s a build up to a very specific kind of comedy and humour with no punchline respectively, For The Birds tells jokes from the beginning, cuts away before the joke gets old, and gives us a new one as soon as that cut is made. And while humour is subjective, I feel that every single one of these land. From the interactions between the small birds to the big bird cawing alongside the small ones without real regard as to what they’re cawing for, they work.

The animation is great. For their simple designs, the small birds are extremely expressive with whatever emotion they’re feeling at any given time, while the big bird always looks dopey but lovable. And they’re not smooth, you can clearly see the feathers on each bird. It’s not quite on the level of detail as Sully’s fur (given that this short did premiere alongside Monster’s Inc.), but it’s still good. And there’s fine details elsewhere, like the birds having different amount of scratches on their beaks.

For as hard as this short is to describe without just going “This is the joke, it’s funny”, this is a Pixar short in which everything works. An absolute must-watch.


Do you remember watching these shorts? Want to tell me how Red’s Dream is actually a hidden gem, or anything else? Please leave a comment!

SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron (1993-1995)

A cartoon can be cancelled for a variety of reasons. It could naturally run to the end of its lifespan, and the studio in charge is fine with keeping the show on only as reruns. It could be because the studio thinks the show’s not popular enough with viewers (however accurate that perception can be). Or it could just vanish into the ether, never officially cancelled but simply have production run out without being renewed, with no official reason given. SWAT Kats is not one of these shows.

In fact, it performed really well. It was the top syndicated show of 1994, was full of potential for action figures and toy vehicles, and its popularity has stayed at such a level that in 2015 a Kickstarter campaign to revive the cartoon met its target in a day. And Hanna-Barbera fully planned on continuing it, having renewed a second season with plans for a third, improving the animation while allowing the writers to take a different tone in the second season, and authorising a SNES game that released in 1995. Instead, the problem lay with Ted Turner. His company was the one who was producing and airing SWAT Kats, and he wasn’t happy with the amount of violence in the show, believing it would have a strong adverse effect on kids unlike the non-violent Scooby-Doo and The Flintstones. As such, merchandise was delayed, the show got cancelled, and three episodes never moved past pre-production in favour of a clip show ‘special news report’ on the SWAT Kats. As such, I’m writing this review with two questions in mind. Did the show deserve to be cancelled? And is it still good enough to warrant so much support for a follow up?


SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron is an action cartoon that aired between 1993 and 1995 for two seasons, one of thirteen episodes and another of ten and a clip show special. The show follows T-Bone and Razor, who were kicked out of the Enforcers (Megakat City’s paramilitary force) after an incident brought on by Commander Feral led to the destruction of the new Enforcer building. They were sent to work in a military junkyard until they’ve repaid what they’ve destroyed, where they use the scraps they’ve found to build a personal fighter jet. Taking on codenames, they become vigilantes, protecting the city from criminal masterminds, giant monsters, and other nefarious villains, all while causing copious amounts of property damage.

Starting off with the intro theme, it sets up the cartoon pretty well. It starts off with some giant monsters attacking the city alongside foreboding music as the Enforcers try and fail to stop them. Then the SWAT Kats get the alarm as an electric guitar kicks in, playing with all the radicalness the 90s could condense into 35 seconds, before coming in and quite handily saving the day. My main problem is that I believe it’s entirely recycled footage from the season, which is more a stylistic nitpick. This is partially fixed in season 2’s intro. While it does still use some recycled footage, it’s much less prominent with most of it being footage freshly created for the intro. It also does away with the foreboding intro and instead starts with the SWAT Kats getting the alarm, as well as gets rid of the cohesive story of our protagonists defeating the threat in favour of explicitly showing some of the recurring villains. I don’t think that’s bad, per say. I do prefer the original, but it is a matter of personal opinion. What is bad, though, is that while the intro music is great, I can never recall it or any particular melody from it. It’s all style with little substance, which is a good representation of the show overall.

For a show made for syndication, I feel that it has some decent slow burn at the beginning when it comes to revealing stuff about the main characters. This wasn’t fully intentional, with the first episode actually having been the third in production (it was brought forwards due to largely featuring dinosaur enemies and Jurassic Park being popular at this time), but it still works. The first episode has no backstory whatsoever. There’s a villain, the deputy mayor contacts the SWAT Kats to come help because she knows the Enforcers can’t do crap, they save the day with their jet and a variety of missiles. Pure SWAT Kats, nothing more, nothing less. The second episode has them reveal their secret identities as cats working in a junkyard without any respect, and simply leaves it at that until the third episode, where we’re actually told why they’re there, why they have their skills, why they’re doing what they do. But as good as I think the build up was, the way they handle exposition is very much in the same way all Saturday morning cartoons seem to. That is, with a clumsy segue, they say everything they want the viewer to know with little regard of how much sense it makes or how awkward it sounds.

With the exception of having lucked out with the opening episodes, this cartoon handles impactful plot elements very poorly. But, in my opinion, the cartoon knows this, and it doesn’t try to be something it isn’t. In every episode, they set up the threat for a good five minutes at least, they bring in the SWAT Kats, and they struggle but ultimately succeed in taking them down. While they have a general order of things, nothing ever has a lasting effect, with the only instance of such taking place in one of the unfinished episodes. It’s your standard affair for a syndicated show, and it had a short enough run that, thanks to some variety through the episodes, it doesn’t get stale to watch. This does, unfortunately, also come at the cost of many characters being pretty flat in terms of personalities, though the SWAT Kats and Commander Feral do get moments which show glimpses of a complex character. But what does strike me is that, as soon as the villain’s defeated, they very quickly cut to the end credits. Half the time, they barely have 10 seconds before this happens. Is this a bad thing? No, it actually suits a show like this to build up to the action, and as soon as that’s done to go away before kids get bored or some pesky plot comes in. But it does mean that, in today’s age where you have access to shows with both excellent action and plot, such as Avatar: The Last Airbender, it’s hard to come up with a genuine reason as to why to pick up this show.

Concerning the action itself, I can say that it doesn’t get stale over the show’s run. This is largely due to the sheer amount of missiles the Turbokat flies around with, allowing them to fight the monster of the week with bolas, buzzsaws, blinding flashes of light, and if all those fails just plain old explosive missiles. And while they’re often fighting giant monsters, they do always require some different tactic, and sometimes it’s a different type of opponent such as someone in a jet or a floating air base which prevents people from being able to fly near it. Is it too violent, though? Well, that’s always subjective, but I can say that Ted Turner does seem to have a point. While weapons did shoot what look like lasers, at times they are called and can be seen as actual bullets, there’s no instance of seriously attempting to talk down an enemy, and if capturing is too difficult the SWAT Kats are completely ok with straight up killing their foe. One early episode opening has a character practically killed on-screen. Is it stuff that kids can’t handle? No. Is it stuff that would’ve “Encouraged kids to kill each other” as Ted claimed? No. But is it something that shouldn’t be on the channel of someone talking to the US congress about reducing violence in kids media? Yes.

Oddly enough, season 2 doesn’t have quite the body count of season 1, either civilian or villainous, and bullets are taken out for consistent lasers. However, it does take on a much darker tone to the first. Most of the episodes had darker concepts, such as being trapped in an alternate universe with evil SWAT Kats and one of the SWAT Kats’ missions resulting in civilian casualties. They got rid of some of the more kiddish sections, such as T-Bone constantly watching a ‘Scaredy Cat’ cartoon that doesn’t fit in with the show to begin with. And the animation isn’t just improved, but it also used a darker colour pallet to reflect the changes. However, along with the improved animation, it also became notably…anime. In some parts, this is minor, such as the villain splashes in the opening song feeling like something out of an anime opening from the period. In others, it’s notable but doesn’t affect much overall, such as the deputy mayor gaining larger eyes and having much more anime-y expressions and mannerisms. In others, though, it feels completely against the feel of the show. This is most prominent in Commander Feral’s introduced niece, Felina, and one of the season’s villains, Turmoil. In the first season, everyone was distinctly cat-like. This is most obvious with the SWAT Kats themselves, though practically any male from the cast will show you what characters look like. The deputy mayor and news reporter, the two recurring females from the first season, are more human but still notably cats. But then come these two, who look just like a catgirl from any given anime. They have a black nose and cat ears, but that’s practically it. They’re human in all other regards. It doesn’t matter much in the long run, it doesn’t affect the plot or really my enjoyment of the show, but it still goes completely against everything that was established in the first season.

In Summary

SWAT Kats is a fun show, and while there’s nothing exceptional about it, there’s certainly very little bad. But in today’s age where you can easily watch shows with as good if not better combat, usually alongside a better story with more in-depth characters if that’s your thing, I struggle to come up with a reason to watch this show in particular. I happily recommend it if you’re interested, but don’t feel obliged if it hasn’t already caught your interest.


Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School (1988)

Well, it’s Halloween. And in spite of only starting this blog four weeks ago, I feel obliged to join in on every other reviewer in making seasonal reviews. Thing is, I hate horror. Granted, I haven’t seen that much, but I don’t want to. I don’t like being scared, I remember being kept up at night just from the intro to Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids, I had to frequently pause The Sarah-Jane Adventures when they were doing a scary episode, horror and I just don’t mix. And yet, I was obsessed with one thing as a child which perfectly lends itself to my inaugural Halloween review: Scooby-Doo.

This is one of three Scooby-Doo movies which were created for the Hanna-Barbera Superstars 10, ten movies created to air in 1987 and 1988 before quickly receiving VHS releases. And while I don’t remember owning this one like I did Reluctant Werewolf and Alien Invaders, it did air often enough on Cartoon Network or Boomerang that I did watch it several times. And according to TV Tropes (obviously by no means a verifiable source, but still a starting point on how it was received), this is one of the more well-liked movies from the Scrappy-Doo era, even if it is more due to the supporting cast it creates. This claim does seem to have merit, given that they’ve recently made an appearance in OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes with several references to their movie. But of course, just because it’s the most fondly remembered, doesn’t guarantee something’s going to be good.

Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School

Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School is a made-for-tv movie that first aired in 1988 on The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera block. It follows Scooby, Scrappy, and Shaggy shortly before and during their tenure at Miss Grimwood’s Finishing School for Girls, where Shaggy’s signed on to be a coach. They quickly realise that all of the students of the school are monsters, and reluctantly stay on due to having already signed a contract. There, they come to know their students, help them in a volleyball game against a rival military school, and end up trying to protect them from a witch seeking to use them to become the greatest monster in the world.

Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School was one of the Scooby-Doo movies/cartoons made between 1985 and 1988 that had Shaggy appear with a red v-neck and jeans instead of his iconic green v-neck and brown trousers. While this admittedly means nothing on its own (we haven’t even been given a reason for the pallet swap), it does give context to the main cast. Fred and Velma are nowhere to be seen, and Daphne has left the cast at some point between The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo and this movie. Instead, we’re left with Shaggy and Scooby, as well as Scrappy. And despite his reputation, I didn’t find Scrappy annoying in this movie. I didn’t come to hate his voice, he didn’t exist just to be captured or serve any negative role in the story, he was just as good a character as Shaggy and Scooby. However, that’s not a good thing. In spite of this being a Scooby-Doo movie, they have very little purpose in it. Sure, Shaggy being signed on as a coach acts a framing device to bring about the school, but they could’ve fled as soon as they realised that all the children were monsters and a grand total of three things would’ve been changed. And not only is there nothing that requires the trio in particular to do these things, meaning they could’ve been replaced with original characters with no detriment, but they could’ve been easily changed to get rid of the need of a ‘coach’ character at all, with the exception of bringing someone normal into a strange and supernatural situation.

So if the three pre-existing characters don’t bring anything to the story, what about the students of the titular Ghoul School? Sibella is the daughter of Dracula who replaces every possible word to contain ‘fang’ or ‘bat’ (‘fangtastic’ being the most frequent one, Winnie is the daughter of a werewolf, Elsa Frankenteen was created by Frankenstein’s monster (called Frankenteen Sr. in this movie), Phantasma is, somehow, the daughter of a phantom, and Tanis is the daughter of an Egyptian Mummy. While this might sound like an interesting cast on paper, there’s the problem that what I’ve written is literally all there is to the characters. None of them go through any sort of development, none of them have backstories beyond at some point being sent to this school, and I can count the times that they’ve had a major impact on the plot on a single hand. And you may be thinking that, since that’s 8 characters so far with very little impact, any other side characters must be driving things forward. But each of them are as interesting as everyone before them. The school faculty including Miss Grimwood herself have very little definitive personality. The Calloway cadets from the nearby rival school might go through some semblance of a character arc, but they all have the same personality which isn’t much more than responding to everything with ‘affirmative’ or ‘negative’. The main villain, an evil witch called Revolta, has by far the most impact on the plot, yet she has the complexity of, well, an 80s cartoon villain.

This all surmounts to my single, biggest problem with this movie. It is a movie where nothing happens. As I mentioned before, the only character development that happens is with the boys of the rival school, where they realise shortly before the finale that maybe they shouldn’t abandon girls to incredible danger and go to rescue them at the last second. And also as mentioned before, Revolta has the only major impact on the plot, using her hypnotising powers to gather the girls with the intention of making them all her eternal slaves which, though some unclear reason, will make her the greatest monster in the world. But that’s it. Everything else in the 90 minute runtime is pure padding. They don’t even make jokes out of it: There’s scenes where everyone is in tutus doing ballet, scenes where they’re going for a run through a bog, and so many scenes where they just replace a word with another word or pretty much state a fact about what they’re doing. Yet none of them have any care put into them. Just the fact that Scooby’s in a tutu, or that Phantasma can just run through the tangled roots of a bog, or that Sibella said ‘fangtastic’ for the seventh time is supposed to be funny enough. Even the one more imaginative joke at the beginning, where Scooby points out the text during the intro sequence, I didn’t find at all funny.

And yet, in spite of having no jokes or even that much plot, there’s a strangely large amount of story. The best way I can describe it is with some of the Disney straight to DVD movies, like Tarzan & Jane and Belle’s Magical World. The ones where they prepare a cartoon series based on one of their movies, have it cancelled, but still take a few of the episodes and try and turn it into a 90 minute experience. There’s three or four distinct parts to this movie: Scooby, Shaggy, and Scrappy arrive at the Ghoul School and help them in their volleyball game, there’s an evening where all the fathers come to the school and meet the trio, and Revolta actually enacts her plan to abduct and enslave the children. None of them are really needed to support the other, and only the latter has any purpose in the grand scheme of things. I didn’t find anything to support this, but this movie does feel like it was planned to be a short tv series, maybe even a follow up to something like The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo. And I can’t even say that it would’ve been good as a tv show, again there’s a distinct lack of humour that I doubt would’ve been fixed by stretching material across an extra 9 episodes, but at least there’d be a chance for the characters to become more developed.

But despite this, I never ended up hating what I was watching like I did with Ozzy & Drix. Sure, the animation is decidedly weaker, due to both being older and the classic Scooby-Doo style this movie employs not really lending itself for any quick action as opposed to slapstick. And sure, it was boring, and I never had any strong emotional reaction to it except mild shame that I used to enjoy it. But then, at the end when the day is saved, they have a dance party. And during that dance party, they have a rap. The Scrappy Rap. Everything I said at the beginning of the review of not hating Scrappy doesn’t apply here, mainly due to the fact that it’s a rap in name only. Sure, it rhymes, and it’s said with music in the background, but it contains no real complexity, attention to pitch, or anything that makes a rap good. It’s little more than just a spoken poem, with very basic and boring dancing happening in the meantime. But for as terrible as this part is, it’s the only part that does loop around into being so bad it’s good. Does that make the movie worth watching? Not at all. But it does make me wonder if the entire movie would be better if watched with some friends to mock it constantly. After all, just because the movie refuses to make jokes, doesn’t mean you can’t make your own.

In Summary

A dull movie where, in spite of plenty of potential stories, nothing happens. It’s by no means an unpleasant watch, but you’re not going to get anything out of it except for one extra reason to dislike Scrappy. If you have some friends and a good amount of alcohol, you might want to try riffing it, but otherwise watch the O.K. KO! episode to see what could’ve been if some effort was put in.


Blade (1998)

When people talk about R rated superhero movies (or 15/18 over here in the UK), there’s one example everyone thinks of: Deadpool. I’m sure you’ve heard this all before by now, but as much talk as there was about it being ‘the first superhero movie given an adult rating’, that is clearly not the case. Watchmen, Judge Dredd, Constantine, The Punisher, Spawn, all examples of these. Sure, the quality of these movies aren’t thought to be the best (though with Watchmen it depends on who you ask), but there is one example I believe is pretty unanimously agreed on being good. Blade.

This isn’t just a thought held by people when thinking back on their favourite movies as kids. It did well financially, having the 29th biggest gross at the American box office in 1998 and leading to a Blade trilogy being made, and it was popular with both audiences at the time and today, apparently giving it a cult following. However, critics reacted with much less enthusiasm. Not at all that film critics must have the final say, they are individuals as opposed to a group conscious, but it seems likely that there must be *some* reason Blade is a whole percent lower than Osmosis Jones when it comes to Rotten Tomatoes’ critical response.

Blade 2

Blade is a 1998 superhero movie following the titular Blade, a ‘daywalker’ half-vampire born after his mother was bitten. Having all of their strengths and none of their weaknesses sans a thirst for blood, he and his father figure Abraham Whistler hunt down and kill vampires. After meeting Karen Jenson, a hematologist, they eventually uncover a plot by vampire Deacon Frost to resurrect the blood god from vampire folklore and turn the world into a killing ground.

In all comic adaptations, how they make the main characters look is a big factor. Some movies nail bringing a character to live action (such as 2016’s Deadpool), others manage to give a new take while still remaining faithful to the character (such as The Dark Knight’s Joker), and others end up messing it up entirely (such as 2004’s Catwoman and 1997’s Steel). Here, I think they managed to do all three. I have yet to read a Blade comic, but from a quick Google image search they have seemed to give Wesley Snipes a costume very similar to his comic counterpart (at least to some of his appearances). And yet, none of them exactly match what we see. Is it enough to give a breath of fresh air to the character? No, the differences from the main design seem minimal, but it’s still a perfectly good redesign. As for the final category, ‘messing it up completely’ is overstating it, but there is a notable detraction for me. The reason I named Shaq’s Steel under this category is that his entire costume, which is meant to be comprised of metal, looks extremely fake, almost like spray painted plastic. Blade’s chest piece, which I can only assume to be something akin to a kevlar vest, is the same only with less textural detail, and yet is supposed to be able to block bullets with no ill effect. I don’t know, this is probably me being nitpicky, but it’s something I found myself unable to ignore throughout the movie.

Speaking of poor effects, the CGI in this movie has not aged well. As a vampire hunter, Blade, as you might imagine, ends up killing quite a few bloodsuckers in this movie. And each time he does so, they end up almost burning away into a skeleton before that dissolves too. Neat idea, on paper, and would likely be really striking were this movie made today. But here, with each death comes skeletons which I’m pretty sure you could get as stock models today. That being said, Blade only goes on major vampire killing sprees at the beginning and the end of the movie, so even if you can’t put how bad it looks aside (I could), it shouldn’t make too much of a difference. However, even I couldn’t put aside the sentient flying skeletons just before the movie’s final battle, which just look terrible for what I’m sure was supposed to be taken seriously. But it’s not all abysmal. There’s a couple of times where vampires end up swelling and blowing up (likely being why this movie received an 18 rating as opposed to a mid to high 5 over here) which look kind of alright, and whenever a vampire slowly burns away due to being exposed to UV light, I think it still holds up.

While I don’t know how it was exactly originally received or currently viewed, or how it was originally pitched, there is one truth about Blade that the above aspects only accentuate: This film is two hours of amazingly goofy fun, and it’s that in the way only the 90s can really be. Blade’s set up from the moment we see him as the most badass man alive, fully capable of slaughtering a room full of vampires, and yet he gives this awkward little fist pump after pinning a vampire to the wall and responds to police shooting at him with an indignant “Motherfuck, are you out of your damn mind?”. The editing speeds up randomly in places, from following a vampire’s familiar in a car to Blade sheathing his sword, giving the movie this over-the-top ridiculousness. The fight scenes are full of dumb little touches that would never be taken even remotely seriously in a modern movie. With all this in mind, the flaw in Blade’s costume and the terrible CGI end up not detracting from the overall experience (except for the aforementioned flying skeletons), but instead improving it.

Obviously, this is not a movie you should watch if you want something particularly clever. Thinking about it, some of my complaints about Osmosis Jones ring true here. The characters aren’t the most complex, the story isn’t the most unique. The difference, though, is that this is a script that clearly has effort behind the cliches. I struggle to think of any really meaningful character development Blade or Karen go through, but the roles they fill are more unique to begin with. They’re not just “the street-smart cop in a buddy-cop” and “the book-wise cop in a buddy-cop”. They’re a half-vampire vampire hunter who’s starting to struggle to keep his vampire side at bay and a strong smart woman who, even though she is used as a damsel in distress relatively often, is still shown to be very capable of holding out for herself in a world she’s only learning about along with the audience. Just how many more words I need to describe them shows how much more interesting they are to follow. And for the plot, it’s more there as an excuse for Blade to get into all of the fight scenes than something meant to intended to get you thinking deeply about the universe, a framing device opposed to the main attraction. It’s a pretty predictable pattern for the sort of movie Blade sets out to be, but it’s different enough that I wasn’t subconsciously putting together every plot point before it happens, while in Osmosis Jones you could work out roughly what happens through the entire thing just from the first 5/10 minutes.

Given that there’s only so many possible ways to say “This movie is so goofy it’s amazing”, that’s about all I can say on this movie. The acting’s perfectly good, I fully believe each of them in the roles they were given and there were no duff moments, but I struggle to point at it and say it’s truly a masterclass of the art. The music, too, isn’t particularly noteworthy. It certainly isn’t bad, but it doesn’t bring scenes to new heights. If anything the fight scene camerawork I have the biggest issue with, employing a shaking camera and at points frequent cuts which can end up distracting in an age where I’ve been spoiled by the straight takes of John Wick. But really, it doesn’t take away from the otherwise very entertaining fights. It’s almost certainly just a nitpick.

In Summary

A great movie to watch when you just want pure entertainment for a couple of hours. Blade’s strengths may not have entirely been intended back when it was made, but even it faults come together to bring about a very fun movie. After watching nothing but bad or tedious things for too long, this was a very welcome break.


Ozzy & Drix (2002-2004)

In my last review, I looked back at 2001’s Osmosis Jones. I largely agreed with the critical reception of the time in that the animated portions of the film, while deep rooted in the cliches of buddy cop movies, was made relatively enjoyable thanks to the interpretation of the body as a city. I also agreed that the live action sections were extremely weak, largely due to them being the primary source of the movie’s gross-out humour. A year after the movie hit cinemas, something that seemingly addresses these faults comes out: The cartoon Ozzy & Drix.

It used to be the case that practically anything popular with children, no matter how little sense it made, would get a cartoon series. The Mask made sense, but then there was the Robocop animated series, and I’m not sure exactly who was asking for a Police Academy cartoon. But, given how Osmosis Jones did perform better on home media than it did in the box office, pandering to the demographic they might have seen as responsible could be a successful idea.

Ozzy & Drix

Ozzy & Drix is a cartoon that ran for 2 seasons of 13 episodes between 2002 and 2004 on Kids’ WB. Following the events of Osmosis Jones, the titular Osmosis and Drix get sucked up by a mosquito while chasing after the disease Scarlet Fever. It transports them from the city of Frank to the city of Hector, a 13 year old boy. After saving Hector, they are allowed to continue living there by the mayor, setting up a PI business behind his eye. Together they constantly butt heads with the mayor and the police force as they try and protect the kid from all manners of bodily threats.

As it’s the first thing anyone’s exposed to while watching a cartoon, I feel I should look at the intro first. And in both the music and the intro animation, it’s clear that the creative team were trying to some degree, but they didn’t put their all behind it. The animation does do its job, it gives a summary of things you can expect from the show, such as Ozzy and Drix fighting some threat from outside the body with the mayor taking the credit. It’s not amazing, but it’s decently fluid. However, this doesn’t mean they don’t cut corners. Several scenes are taken directly from the show itself, and even in one particularly noticeable example with Drix dancing from the movie that spawned it, dragging it down slightly from what would otherwise be a completely alright intro.

The theme song itself is a hip hop track clearly inspired from the movie’s soundtrack. I don’t know how much room I have to criticize it, given it’s not a genre I’m overly familiar with, but it sounds somewhat generic, for lack of a better term. It’s a perfectly fine song, but even after listening to it over 26 times I can’t remember a single lyric except for the very beginning or the very end. It just doesn’t seem to stand out. With all that said, I can still call it the best track in the show, though that is to damn it with very faint praise. Also inspired by the movie’s soundtrack, Ozzy & Drix features an original song every few episodes. Not a single one of them was pleasant to listen to, with whatever band at the mic screaming exposition about the state of Hector, even though the viewer already knows it and the band sometimes really shouldn’t. Exposition is a strong word though, given at least one of them is just repeatedly calling out how doomed Hector is and the others are similarly simple lyrically. On top of all of that, there’s only one time where the song actually moved the plot along in any way, and since it was a representative of nicotine hypnotizing all the nearby cells to make them addicted to him, I don’t believe it was necessary to have the sequence be a song.

As you might have guessed from that, this show has the anti-smoking episode that is almost obligatory in edutainment show. That’s what the show is when you get down to it; while most episodes do devolve into Ozzy and Drix fighting the infection of the week, it’s framed through Hector refusing to brush his teeth, or finding out he has an allergy, or overusing a nose spray. But, in one of the show’s strengths, not every episode is like this. For example, one episode deals with the aftereffects of Hector getting a concussion and all the cells except the titular ones losing their recent memory, and another has the mayor give Hector a phobia of swimming after he almost drowned. On top of this, while the lessons being taught are extremely evident (the pilot having Osmosis go on a monologue about how Hector reminds him of Frank at that age, before he gained all of his horrible habits, which doesn’t seem in character), the primary focus of the cartoon is the action. Compared with how preachy the show could’ve been, I can appreciate this. However, the nature of the show can very quickly work against itself.

In each episode, Hector is required to get ill, cause himself an injury, or just gain some unhealthy habit to cause the problem that Ozzy & Drix have to fight. But what little personality he has changes frequently in order to fit the episode. He’s seen in the opening brushing his teeth, yet in the final episode of season 2 he apparently doesn’t and hasn’t for long enough to need fillings. He’s frequently seen playing basketball, skating, and so on, and yet in one episode he’s completely lost interest to the point where he’s almost had an entire artery blocked up with fat. This is one of the most infuriating aspects of the show, the sheer inconsistency of it. Changes between the movie and the cartoon are understandable, it likely wasn’t written with the intention of being a cartoon, and differences between the layout of Frank and Hector are understandable due to them being completely different people (though Frank had a lot more internal sense; the stomach was an airport terminal in the movie, while in the cartoon it’s a frequently used beach with children playing in the tide, even though it’s immediately acknowledged that it would quickly and easily dissolve them into nothing). Internal inconsistencies, however, are not. For example, when Ozzy & Drix save Hector from Scarlet Fever (who, as an aside, is essentially a less suave copy of Thrax from the movie), they’re treated as heroes, and not only are they no longer getting kicked out of the body but are being gifted ‘prime real estate’ in Hector’s eye. But in every following episode, they (Ozzy especially) are treated with nothing but contempt. It’s first shown that the cells can only see what Hector sees through a special feed in the Mayor’s office or through the eye using binoculars, but at some point it ends up being publicly available first through cinemas, and then through tvs. A season 1 episode has the penicillin G injection takes the form of a James Bond knock off, and yet a mouthful of chocolate cereal which Hector frequently eats brings with it several superheroes, with the event being apparently something special and unique. By far the most infuriating example of this is that, in half of the season 2 episodes, Ozzy’s car has an AI which offers some a few quips, but nothing more. By the final episode, there had still been no attempt to even suggest an origin to this. It’s not even a matter of an explaining episode being aired later than planned, the creating studio simply couldn’t be bothered to give an origin episode within the same season. Even if they were unexpectedly cancelled and they planned on making it a third season episode, it isn’t an excuse.

Even without the inconsistencies, this is still a very infuriating show to watch. Much like the aforementioned dancing Drix scene in the intro, the show frequently reuses animation from the movie, most often a shot of the tongue moving in front of an open mouth or two cops reacting to something coming in over the radio. It never fits due to the decrease in animation quality between the movie and the cartoon, and always looks awkward at best. It makes jokes relatively frequently, but not a single one over the 26 episodes landed for me. As far as characters are concerned, Hector changes personality and has his life threatened so often that I’m wondering how he’s still alive instead of actually caring for him, and everyone else is extremely one note. Much like in Osmosis Jones, the characters are their cliches, only this time no one ever goes through character development that holds any degree of impact on the show. And when there are elements that carry over between episodes that give them a definitive canon, such as Drix getting a dog made of dog saliva, it gets rid of the argument that they shouldn’t include major changes for when the show gets syndicated. It just feels all around lazy.

In Summary

Ozzy & Drix had the opportunity to take what worked with Osmosis Jones and turn it into 20 minute episodes, an idea which worked perfectly well on paper. Yet while I hesitate to say that Osmosis Jones had charm, Ozzy & Drix got rid of all of it, and while it may show how to do an edutainment cartoon well it doesn’t have the material needed to back it up. The lack of interesting characters and good humour persists, and is supported by bad writing, music, and a formula that is stale by the second season in spite of the variations.


Osmosis Jones (2001)

The idea of a body being controlled by sentient, humanoid beings inside of it is by no means a unique concept. I was introduced to it through The Numbskulls in The Beano, where five figures in charge of a boy’s sight, smelling, hearing, tasting, and general actions were the main focus. Others have been through the more recent Inside Out and Cells at Work, with Pixar’s movie giving a heartfelt story driven by a young girl’s anthropomorphised emotions and the anime taking a more educational route and teaching what happens inside the body. And in 2001, I’m sure yet more were through the live action-animated hybrid Osmosis Jones.

That being said, I can’t be certain exactly how positive their induction into the concept generally was. The movie was a box office bomb, and also failed to perform well with critics who averaged around 5.5/10, according to Rotten Tomatoes. However, things aren’t as open and shut as they may seem. Some critics liked the film, with Roger Ebert giving it 3/4 stars, and it allegedly did well in terms of home media. Hopefully, after taking a 17 year long step back, it’ll be possible to work out what on earth was going on.

Osmosis Jones

Osmosis Jones is a gross-out buddy cop movie which interprets the inner workings of a human body as a city, inhabited by anthropomorphic cells, germs, and viruses. The titular Osmosis Jones is a police officer in the City of Frank, a zookeeper with little respect for hygiene as shown when he eats a boiled egg that had been sucked on by a monkey and dropped in its cage. This introduces Thrax to his body, a virus with the intention to kill Frank fast enough to enter medical books. To avoid going to the hospital, Frank takes a cold pill that becomes anthropomorphised in his body and takes the name Drix. He and Osmosis get partnered up and have to use their respective skills to protect Frank from being killed, even if the rest of the police force and the mayor only concerned about reelection don’t believe them.

This is not a movie which fluidly integrates its live action and animated elements. The animation is strictly reserved for the world of the microbes, while everything on a human level is live action, with there being very little overlap between the two until the very end. As such, I feel it would be best to look at the shorter live action parts first. After all, finding the right director and actors for these was what ended up putting Osmosis Jones in development hell. These must have been seen as parts vital for the movie’s plot and success, especially with them settling on Bill Murray for the starring role of Frank. They end up being quite easily the worst part of the movie.

While the gross-out humour is present throughout the movie, it is at its most prominent in these sections. Every scene having Frank pull off some disgusting act, such as opening his mouth just to show a load of disgusting mush on his tongue. In fact, only two of these acts (eating a boiled egg that had been in a monkey’s mouth and dropped in its cage, bringing Thrax into his body, and throwing up all over his daughter’s teacher which led to the decline in Frank’s health standards) have any significant effect on the plot. And given how neither of these strictly require us to see what’s happening in the human world, having strong visuals on the inside, I struggle to see why the movie was put on hold just for the live action segments to be included. And while most of the actors are pretty good (especially Frank’s daughter, given her actress Elena Franklin was barely 13 by the film’s premiere), Bill Murray as Frank seems to be extremely unemotional, though I can easily chalk that up to just not having the material to work with. All in all, it just ends up being highly unpleasant. I ended up skipping through some scenes due to the unpleasantness of it, and doing that didn’t make me miss much.

But that’s enough about the live action sections. Let’s talk about what takes up the majority of the movie.

Unlike the other examples I named in the intro, Osmosis Jones isn’t driven by an exploration of what the inhabitants of the body do on a day to day basis. Instead it’s used more as a framing device, a way to make the buddy cop aspect less generic. It both succeeds and fails at this. The actual plot is almost indistinguishable from any other movie of the genre: A street-smart rebel cop get a booksmart partner, finding out a terrible plot that everyone else dismisses, before getting back together to save the day. Nothing you haven’t heard before. But it does allow for some imaginative imagery that sticks in the mind. Nerves are power lines and destroying the main nerve receptor causes the body’s leg to cramp, for example. The main goal of the villain is to destroy the entire city by killing Frank, and the reason Drix can be that smart but inexperienced cliche is because he’s literally a pill who came straight from the factory into Frank’s stomach. It’s all these touches, both to the setting and to the plot, which gives the film some staying power.

But while the setting assists the plot, it doesn’t really help the overall feel of the movie that much. This is primarily due to two factors. The first is that, for a comedy, it really wasn’t funny. Even setting aside the gross out humour, which could purely be a matter of taste, a lot of the humour boiled down to “It’s real life, but something’s related to something inside the body”, with the rest being practically nonsensical randomness. I only got one laugh throughout the movie due to that latter type, when Drix first enters the zit. The second is just how dark the movie is. As well as pushing the release date of the movie back in order to film the live action sequences, it was also mandated that the content of Osmosis Jones was cut so that it would fit a PG, rather than a PG-13, rating. This leads to plenty of horrifying imagery, especially when it comes to Thrax and his method of killing (the second example of which is shown on screen in its entirety). Given that some even more violent scenes were cut from the movie in order to earn its rating, it makes me wonder exactly what it could’ve been like. Maybe it would’ve been an even tougher watch, maybe it would’ve helped it stand out even more. I’ll leave it up to your discretion as to which is more likely.

That isn’t to say the movie isn’t without its strengths. Something that completely blindsided me was the music. While some of it just relatively unassuming background music, others I found myself noting and enjoying. Of particular note is the tune playing over the opening credits and the ‘Cool, Daddy Cool’ from inside the zit club personally, while ‘Take It to da House’ did end up charting in the US, even if only at 88. Also, Thrax is by far the greatest character here. None of the other characters are acted badly, but they’re all very generic to the point where those not in the principal cast just seem to meld together in my mind. And even with Osmosis and Drix, they are little more than the buddy cop cliches they represent, with the only interesting things about them coming from what they physically are in the body. Laurence Fishburne carries Thrax exceptionally well, giving him this suave manner for the most part which easily gives way for the unhinged psychopathy you’d expect from a killer virus. From the moment he appears, you see him as a genuine threat, something I was worried an otherwise poor movie wouldn’t be able to do.

In Summary

Osmosis Jones was a movie that was undoubtedly worsened through executive demands, though exactly how much better it would’ve been is debatable. I strongly believe that, if they had just cut out the live action sequences, then the movie would be a lot stronger, with the unique setting making up for the unoriginal plot. As it stands, it gets bogged down with bad humour, a cast of mostly uninteresting characters, and Bill Murray trying and succeeding to make me feel disgusted. At least watching today it’s possible to skip forward.