Movie Valley
November Movie Reviews
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Starring: Amy Adams, James Marsden, Patrick Dempsey, and Susan Sarandon
Directed By: Kevin Lima
Run Time: 1 hr 47 mins

Enchanted is about Giselle, who is banished from her world by the evil Queen Narissa before she can marry Prince Edward, the Queen's stepson. Giselle ends up in New York City, a land that's a bit too gritty for fairy tales.

Enchanted ties with Stardust for best movie I've seen all year! Stardust definitely wins hands down for the shear wonder of its imagination. Enchanted wins for its trueness to the fairy tale. It is absolutely fabulous.

Any little girl who has ever dreamed of becoming a princess will love this movie. It's definitely one for those who love fairy tales and happy endings.

The movie opens with Giselle's (played by Amy Adams) cartoon world. I loved the campiness of her world. It was definitely tongue-in-cheek. It played to the stereotypes of cheesy fairy tales - with the animals that talk and help Giselle with her tasks and the prince who comes to save her. When Giselle falls from a huge tree, hitting every branch on the way down, she doesn't get hurt and then falls into Prince Edward's arms. I liked that this movie didn't take itself too seriously. If it did, it wouldn't have worked.

And then, just moments before her dream of marrying her prince was to come true, Giselle is cruelly thrust into the real world. She tries to remain true to herself - singing and dancing through New York City - but the lessons of reality ring home. For the first time in her life, Giselle experiences anger - which she loves. And her notions of true love have her doubting if she truly be happy and in love with someone she doesn't even know.

Robert (played by Patrick Dempsey) is a tough lawyer who rescues Giselle (although on this fall, she experiences pain for the first time in her life) and tries to teach her how the real world works. There is no true love. You have to work at a relationship, which takes time. Lots of time. Little by little, Giselle comes down a bit to reality. And little by little, Robert lets loose.

This movie is incredibly funny. I laughed a lot. I loved the songs. I loved the dancing, particularly when Giselle flutters through Central Park, dragging poor Robert along. Everyone else is caught up in the wonder of bursting into song and dance. Robert is still very much grounded. I loved that Giselle made clothes out of curtains (and the Grinch-style outline of the cuttings in the still hanging drapes). I loved that even in NYC, she could still command an all animal cleaning crew. The shower scene is quite funny.

If I had a downside to this movie, it would have to be that Robert wasn't grumpy/gritty/hard enough and that Queen Narissa wasn't mean enough. I think they wanted to keep this movie light and fresh and stay away from scary and cold but those elements could have added a bit more depth. I thought that Giselle's breathy/sing-songy speaking voice was going to bother me but it didn't. And I must say that the tongue-in-cheek cartoon opener was genius. It clearly stated "Yes, we're making fun of fairy tales - but ours is going to be true and magical."

I really did love this movie. It was so sweet and fun to watch. Happy endings. Lessons learned. Every girl deserves a prince.

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Jason Bateman
Directed By: Zach Helm
Run Time: 1 hr 33 mins

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium is about a magical toy store owned by a magical man who is 243 years old. Mahoney, a struggling musical genius, is the manager of the toy store. Eric, a nine year old boy, plays at the store every day and has no friends.

The movie spends a lot of time showing you the wonderful, magical toy store and all the crazy things that happen inside it. Magorium has a pet zebra. He dresses in loud suits, wearing both stripes and plaid and polka dots at the same time. There's a room that changes by the twist of a dial. One moment, it's filled with bouncing balls; another trains zipping about; another it's a mundane staircase to Magorium's apartment. And then Magorium announces that he's "leaving" (which is a soft euphemism for dying) and that Mahoney will take over the store. Both Mahoney and the store rebel against this idea.

There's not much of a plot for this movie. Although a live action movie (and not a cartoon), it's geared towards little kids. It's an incredibly simple movie. There are a lot of funny sight gags. A lot of things zinging about the toy store. A lot of pretty colors. It is funny, in a very benign sort of way. There were several moments that I laughed quite hard. As usual, Jeff asked me later if I was the only one laughing and yes, I was (again as usual) but they were very funny moments. In one scene where Mahoney lies to get Magorium admitted to the hospital, Magorium asks Mahoney if she wasn't afraid her pants were going to catch fire. The thought of that question kept popping into my head throughout the rest of the movie, which made me giggle to myself a lot. As I type that line, I am still giggling to myself. Ah, the innocence and imagery of that simple kid rhyme. If only people's pants did burst into flames every time the wearer lied...

The acting is a bit over the top. Dustin Hoffman's performance was a bit reminiscent of Rain Man. At times, I grew weary of his trying to be quirky acting skills, but for the most part, I liked him. Natalie Portman was, at times, a bit awkward, particularly with the end magical scene. Jason Bateman did a wonderful job playing the nerdy and non-believing adult of the store. He had great acerbic, unassuming delivery of his lines.

While I didn't love the acting in this movie, I did love the characters. I liked Jason Bateman's character Henry, the Mutant. He's actually an accountant that Magorium hires to determine the value of the store. They call him "Mutant" because Magorium had never heard of the word "accountant" before so he assumes it's a counting mutant. I loved that they called him Mutant. And I loved Eric, the friendless boy who plays at the toy store every day. I loved the scene between Eric and Henry as Eric tries to make a friend. I wondered if Henry (the Mutant) was just like Eric when he was young and if Eric, if left to be ridiculed for being who he really was (incredibly eccentric and creative), would eventually end up like Henry, completely devoid of imagination.

There are several very poignant and sweet and funny moments in this movie. I loved that Eric made a giant Abraham Lincoln out of lincoln logs. I loved his hat collection. I loved that when the store rebelled, all the pretty colors disappeared. I loved that the zebra ate the appetizers. I loved the name tags at the store meeting (Not Steve). I loved the wonder and magnitude and charm of the store. I loved Bellini, the book maker. And I did love that the movie did try to have a message, without being too in your face about it. Although Magorium was "leaving" ("Light bulbs die. I am departing."), the movie worked hard to point out that while death is an ending for one, it's a beginning for others.

If you go to (and possibly the actual end credits of the movie), you'll note a bit of whimsy with the credits. I loved this part. Natalie Portman plays "Mahoney, the Composer" and Dustin Hoffman plays "Mr. Edward Magorium, Avid Shoe-Wearer" and Zach Mills plays "Eric Applebaum, the Hat Collector." Each character has a description. I love that little whimsical touch.

I liked this movie. It was simple. It was cute. It was imaginative. If you channel your inner child, you'll appreciate this movie for what it's supposed to be - light hearted whimsy for children.

Dan in Real Life
Starring: Steve Carell, Juliette Binoche, Dane Cook, John Mahoney, Emily Blunt
Directed By: Peter Hedges
Run Time: 1 hr 38 mins

Dan in Real Life is about a widowed advice columnist trying to raise three girls. While he may have words of wisdom for his readers, he struggles with his relationship with his children. When the perfect woman walks into his life, his life gets more screwed up. The perfect woman is dating his brother.

Dan (played by Carell) meets Marie (played by Binoche) in a bookstore. She mistakes him for the shop clerk and spills her heart out while describing the book she's looking for. After the real shop keeper informs her that Dan doesn't work at the shop, the two spend what seems like hours talking. Well, Dan does all the talking. Marie asks all of the questions. She then receives a phone call and abruptly ends their conversation. Dan is smitten. He goes back to the cabin where his family grills him on the woman he just met. They're all excited for him. He then is introduced to his brother's girlfriend - Marie.

The premise for this movie is a bit like a Three's Company episode. Of course the first woman to reach Dan's heart since the death of his wife is unavailable. How unavailable? Dating his brother unavailable. To add more fuel to the Three's Company episode fire, she spends the week at the family cabin with all siblings, spouses, and children (as well as Dan's parents) and everyone - brothers, sisters, parents, children - fall in love with this woman. Dan uses this time to get to know Marie and falls deeper and deeper in love with her (as does the rest of this family). Unfortunately, no one knows that Marie is the mystery woman Dan met at the bookstore. They all think he's flirting with his brother's girlfriend. So very uncool. There seems to be a bit of a misunderstanding here.

This is a sweet and charming movie, even if it is a Three's Company episode. My heart really went out to Dan, struggling to put the pieces of his life back together after the death of his wife. Presumably he bestowed more wisdom while parenting with his wife and that the shambles we see is a result of his broken heart. True, Dan is no ogre. He doesn't parent with a heavy hand. He does what he thinks is right. He's a bit overprotective (no driving, no boys). But he just doesn't have that suaveness he portrays in his column. He doesn't have all the right answers. Of course, he may not have all the right answers in life because life is in the moment, spontaneous. It's one thing to be able to sit back and ponder how to deal with a situation; it's another to have to react as it happens. Everyone thinks Dan is wonderful and wise, everyone except his children who have to deal with the "in the moment" dad. His family's admiration causes Dan some sadness, as he knows he isn't the world's smartest man (as his family talks him up to be).

Dan comes from a rather big family. It was a bit hard to count who was a brother or sister (versus the spouse of one of his siblings, or a spouseless sibling) but I did gather that there were at least three other siblings for Dan. The cabin was filled with people, all of whom got along wonderfully. The children of Dan's siblings played beautifully with each other, despite the age ranges. Dan's own brothers and sisters and their spouses played beautifully with each other, too. Everyone knew everything about everyone's life. They had way too many cutesy family time moments - the crossword puzzle war (boys against girls), the family exercise hour, the all family hide-and-go seek game. I found this a bit too cozy. Whenever a movie portrays a big family, it seems they all get along too well and are too happy to be around so many people. It's a Norman Rockwell painting. Cozy. Sweet. Cute.

Don't get me wrong. I think it's wonderful when family members get along and enjoy each other's company. I did like the cutesy family moments. I loved the idea of that there really was a family crossword puzzle war - that they actually cared who beat whom. But every time there was one of these moments (which I did like), I also had to wonder, "Really? Is this a little much?" There's normal and then there's sickeningly sweet, way too happy to be here. Case in point - as a result of one extra person in the house (Marie), Dan's normal bedroom was occupied. Dan was given the "special" room. He was happy to have it, too. He never once complained about sleeping on a teeny, tiny cot in the laundry room. He brushed his teeth in an old cement sop sink (visions of the sop sink in my basement have the willies creeping over me); he slept to the banging sounds of the dryer every single night (because with like 50 people in the house, there's always laundry to be done). And there was no privacy. People came bursting in every five minutes to do the laundry - take something out of the dryer, rinse something in the sop sink, fold clothes, start the wash, etc. Maybe it says something about me, but I may be a bit grumbly about sleeping in the "special" room after a few days. But Dan was happy.

Cozy, happy, unrealistic family portrayal aside, I liked this movie. But it wasn't that funny, which is something I expected out of a Steve Carell movie. I did find that Dan Cook (Dan's little brother) and Juliette Binoche were a bit odd of a pairing. Maybe it was the age difference thing. Perhaps that was the point - their relationship was mismatched from the beginning. I liked Dan Cook. He seemed like a goofy (a tame goofy, considering it was Dan Cook) little brother. Juliette Binoche wasn't as lovable as the movie portrayed her, I thought (the family just adored her).

This movie does what I think it's trying to do - get you to root for Dan. You want him to find happiness. You want his daughters to like him. You want him to fall in love again. You have to bite your lip to keep from shouting in the theater, "Oh, just leave him alone! He's trying to be a good guy. Really, he is!" Wait. Was that just me? And when a movie does what it's supposed to do, you have to like it. It's not that funny but its charm will win you over.

Bee Movie
Starring: Jerry Seinfeld, Reneée Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, Patrick Warburton
Directed By: Stephen Hickner & Simon J. Smith
Run Time: 1 hr 40 mins

Bee Movie is about Barry the bee, a recent college graduate who doesn't want to spend the rest of his life stuck in the hive making honey. Instead, he ventures from the hive and meets Vanessa (voiced by Zellweger), a human who saves him from getting smushed. During his adventure away from the hive, Barry discovers that humans trap bees and steal their honey. Barry sues for bee rights - the right to keep the honey to themselves.

This is a very sweet movie and very funny! I laughed really loud at several one-liners. Unfortunately, I was the only one of the six other people in the theater laughing. Not sure if they didn't get the jokes or if those jokes weren't that funny. It was odd being the only one laughing.

There are three different segments to this movie. The first segment centers around Barry's struggle to deal with his lot in life. After graduating from college, he then must choose the job he'll have for his entire life. While this task and predicament makes all the other bees happy, it scares and saddens poor Barry. Bees work their entire lives doing some task associated with honey production (stirring, transporting, monitoring production, etc). There are no vacations. There is only one job for them. For life. The other bees accept this. Barry cannot.

The second segment of this movie finds Barry out of hive, fighting for bee rights. For a good portion of the movie, I was concerned it would lead to an anti-honey, anti-bee product uprising. Barry (voiced by Seinfeld) was very upset that humans profited from bee labor, taking the honey made by bees for themselves.

The third segment of this movie explores the outcomes of the first two segments. What happens if you don't work your entire life in the hive? What happens if bees do get honey rights? What happens if bees don't get rights to their honey?

You couldn't help but have in the back of your head that Jerry Seinfeld was voicing Barry. At one point, there's actually a reference to this fact, which I found very funny.

Movies that are suited for kids tend not to be actually suitable for kids. If they're suitable for kids, they tend not to be suitable for adults. This movie is a good one for all ages. This animated movie is very tame. It's not scary or raunchy. It's a pretty good movie for kids (although the only kid watching the movie didn't apparently like it). It's sweet and funny and very educational. It's also very smart.

I liked this movie a lot. It was sweet. It was well written. It made a point but wasn't preachy. It wrapped up all the loose ends. It was cute. Really cute. And it was funny.

Martian Child
Starring: John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Joan Cusack, Oliver Platt
Directed By: Menno Meyjes
Run Time: 1 hr 48 mins

Martian Child is about a widowed science fiction writer who adopts a boy who thinks he's from Mars.

David (played by Cusack) was bullied as a child because he was different. As an adult, he that difference helped him become a successful science fiction writer. On one hand, he's the perfect person to adopt a child from Mars. David's latest book centers on characters from outer space. He also knows very well that being different, a bit weird, is a good thing. Trying to conform to normal standards is not a good thing. But on the other hand, poor little Dennis (played by Bobby Coleman, who, incidentally, was in Must Love Dogs with Cusack) isn't just a little weird. He's bordering on psychotic. He insists he isn't pretending to be from Mars, but actually is. At first, he lives in a cardboard box. The sun is too great for him to endure (although being from Mars, shouldn't he be used to the heat and sun??). Cusack gives him SPF 45 and a dark pair of sunglasses. He wears a belt made from dozens of old C and D batteries. The weight is supposed to help him combat Earth's gravity and keep him from floating away (although isn't the gravity on Mars stronger?). He has Martian wishes that he uses to get a minor league player a homerun and change stoplights so that David doesn't have to sit in traffic.

A part of me wanted to believe this child was really from Mars. It does explain a lot of the things Dennis does and can do. But then, this was a real movie about real people with real problems. To make the child actually be from Mars would change the dynamics, the tone, and the believability of the movie. Plus, the main point of the movie was Is it okay to be truly yourself? David's sister-in-law Harley (played by Amanda Peet) encouraged Dennis' bizarre behavior. She and David were the only people to see the good in Dennis' eccentric tendencies. The rest of the world was mean to Dennis. Kids picked on him. Social workers didn't want to place him in any home that would nurture his imagination. In fact, the only reason they allowed Dennis to stay with David is because they thought he had changed, had accepted this Martian claim as pretend. And he got kicked out of several schools because he was so weird (and stealing items from his classmates, but as he put it "cataloging human artifacts").

It's easy to side with letting a child be a child - imaginative, creative, quirky, different. It's easy to hate society - insisting that in order to be accepted and acceptable, one must conform to "normal" (or rather, completely devoid of anything different, anything that makes one distinctive). But this movie was good enough not to paint a black and white picture. Dennis' creativity was cute and endearing but not harmless. He was insistent that he wasn't "pretending" but rather really was a child from Mars. His differences not only alienated him from other children his own age but was also stifling his growth. Society may have been bad for not tolerating his oddities but too much imagination is also not a good thing.

I read one review that ( possible spoiler) was upset that this child really wasn't from Mars. I believe it would have been an incredible dis-service to the believability and sweetness of this movie to actually allow him to be from Mars. Dennis is not from Mars. He invented this belief as a way to deal with being abandoned by his real parents (on the lawn of a conservatory) and every other adult he'd come in contact with. He was too weird for anyone to be able to cope with. But David reached out to him in an incredibly touching scene.

Good movie. Sweet movie. Not as sad as I thought it would be but cute. I, of course, identified with the creative and eccentric child (and was comforted by seeing that it can lead to a successful writing career). I liked it. I didn't love it, but I liked it.