Why, 2K?!-“Casper’s Haunted Christmas” and “Chicken Run”

The first decade of this millennium is often heralded as some sort of golden age for children’s films. Sure, most of Pixar’s best flicks came out in this period, and there were some winners in general, but I think people tend to view the films of their own childhood with rose-colored glasses. Most of these films are goddamn godawful. Just HOW goddamn godawful, you ask? Let’s find out together by checking out EVERY kids film between 2000 and 2009. From theatrical to direct-to-DVD to Disney Channel Original, we’ll look at ’em all because I am a glutton for punishment.

This week, we check out a decently timed christmas movie and an Aardman flick.

CASPER’S HAUNTED CHRISTMAS

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Have you ever seen a movie so bad and forgettable that if you watched it again the next day, you wouldn’t even remember having seen it? That is this movie. Fun fact, I bet most of you have seen this movie before and don’t remember it. It seems to play pretty frequently on Cartoon Network around this time of year, so if you’ve ever clicked by, you might have caught a glimpse of it. Or if, like me, you leave CN on in the background while you decorate for the hollidays, you’ve probably seen this damn thing beginning to end multiple times. And still, it took me a good fifteen minutes to realize I’d ever seen it before.

The film follows Casper the friendly ghost as he is set on a journey to scare literally anyone or he will be imprisoned forever in eternal darkness. Didn’t make any of that up. After we’re introduced to Casper and his three douchenozzle uncles, we meet Kibosh who is motherfucking terrifying.

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              Gaaaaaaah!!! Why was I scared of ‘Goosebumps’ and not this?

Kibosh is a super-ghost and as such he has to enforce ghost laws, like some kind of duly appointed spectral officer of the Tyrest Accord. He decides that, since Casper isn’t scary enough, he and his uncles have to go scare someone in the least scary place on earth, Chris, Massachusetts.

Get it? If not, just read it out loud. I’m personally annoyed they didn’t just commit and name the town Christ, Massachusetts. once in the town, Casper meets The Jollimore family, specifically their daughter Holly.

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Yes, I COULD have picked a more flattering screenshot. I didn’t, but I could have.

Ok ok ok, I need to stop and address this right now: The animation is goddamn terrible on this special. And it actually hurts me to admit this, because it was done by Mainframe Entertainment, who were responsible for the excellent “Transformers: Beast Wars”. And what’s sad is that Beast Wars actually came BEFORE this turdblossom. YOU CAN DO BETTER, MAINFRAME, I KNOW YOU CAN!!

And it gets even MORE painful, because Beast Wars alums David Kaye (Megatron) and Scott McNeil (Rattrap) show up in this special and it actually killed my soul a little.

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                                            Well, that’s just prime.

So Holly meets Casper and immediately believes him to be a snowman come to life because THAT makes more sense to literally fucking nobody. Holly and Casper become friends and Casper’s uncles also come to stay with the Jollimore’s after the family mistakes them for method actors playing ghosts because this is a world where no one even thinks ghosts are even close to a possibility. So people in the Casper universe are MORE rational than in real life? That… that makes me sad.

In a plan to get Casper’s scaring done for him, the uncles call upon Casper’s Brooklynite cousin Spooky. Spooky looks similar to Casper and can pass for him. Meanwhile Casper is trying to work up the courage to tell Holly that he’s a ghost. If you’ve ever tried to get up the nerve to ask a girl or guy out, these scenes will be weirdly familiar to you. But oh noes! Spooky, while pretending to be Casper, winds up being a jerk (oh I’m sorry, a “joyk”, I forgot to type it in the accent) to Holly and she gets mad at Casper.

Casper tells her the truth finally, but only after a weird conversation with a boy scout copy of himself. This raises an interesting question: was Casper a boy scout before his tragic death at a young age? Before young Casper A. Aaronson was sacrificed by devil worshippers and was doomed to haunt the earth forever, did he have a normal life?

By the way, I want to see that origin story on Casper’s wikipedia page by sunup. Get on it!

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“…And then the man wearing the goat skull plunged a dagger through my heart, and then I was like this!”

Towards the end of the special, the uncles decide to steal all the Christmas presents because they’re dickbags and Casper scares them and then he’s allowed to leave and be free. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good ghost christmas.

CHICKEN RUN

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I know that, just by the laws of probability it had to happen, but I never expected it to. But guys, I just watched a movie that was actually good! A GOOD 2000s kids movie! I’m so happy I might cry.

I shouldn’t have been THAT surprised though, considering this one was a product of Aardman Animation, the masterminds behind Wallace And Gromit, which I maintain as one of the finest comedic works of our generation. I was a little nervous going in, as this is one of Aardman’s lesser remembered films, but that all fell away when I realized what this film is.

This film is “The Great Escape” but about chickens.

Fucking

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        How did it take almost a hundred years of filmmaking for this to get made?

Seriously, it is. The setup is the same, the characters strike notable similarities, and the score even pays homage to the iconic theme to “The Great Escape”. And it works really well. the formula of Great Escape really does lend itself to a comedic tone, and it comes out really fun.

The story follows a chicken farm being used to produce eggs for farm owner Mrs. Tweedy. But when Tweedy realizes she could make more money by selling chicken pot pies, the chickens are put on a ticking clock until they are all killed. The smart, thoughtful Ginger takes charge and when former circus performing chicken Rocky shows up, he might be her only hope. What ensues is a legitimately funny movie only made better by its inclusion of some hilarious British actors plus Mel Gibson. Even the supporting cast are quite charming with special credit going to the rats, who made me smile consistently throughout the film.

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                                  No part of this doesn’t make me happy.

Yeah, Mel Gibson’s in this. And he does a fine job, but he’s completely outshined by the cast of british comedians absolutely owning every moment of screen time. Most of the marketing sells Gibson as the film’s main character when he really isn’t. He remains absent from large stretches of the film and I didn’t especially find myself missing him when this was the case.

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    I mean, at least he’s less anti-semetic than the real Mel Gibson. By like, 10%.

Also, this film has some truly excellent comedy writing. It’s really funny and the actors nail the jokes they’re assigned. This film also contains the best Star Trek reference I’ve ever seen in a film. I’m not even a Star Trek fan and I still had to point it out, that’s how good it was. Also, best line I’ve heard in a while:

“You Americans, always showing up late to wars.”

Oh, and the recurring reference to the British RAF made me giddy.

Well, that’s it for this week, next week I have a feeling we aren’t getting another good movie.

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