Movie Monday: Inside Out

Warning, spoilers ahead.

I love Inside Out. I could talk about all tiny touches they put into that movie to make it great, but to me, the crux of that movie, the absolute best part, is the “Belly of the Whale” moment (more on that in another Writing on Wednesday) in the memory dump.

It’s a perfect scene. Not only does it work perfectly for its place in the hero cycle, but the scene, from Joy falling to her escape almost works as a short. It has all the elements of a story on its own, and it would be a good one. But the context of the movie, the setting, the stakes, the character building, make it so much stronger. That moment when Joy is looking through all the memories and tearfully asking “do you remember…” is so incredibly powerful because the movie has done such a good job of establishing Joy’s character. Seeing her broken and sad packs such a powerful punch.

Then the whole sequence where she figures out that there’s a value to sadness is such incredible character growth. That’s the loud message and it’s important enough, but the quieter one, that acknowledging the way you feel gives you the tools to seek help is every bit as powerful.

Then the burst of optimism with the rocket and the sacrifice at the end, the whispered “Take her to the moon,” it’s just an incredible scene. A lot of people have analyzed that scene as Riley (after all, they’re all Riley) letting go of her past so she can have a future, which is symbolic in the context of the movie, but it’s more than that, on two seemingly conflicting levels. One, Joy was saved by Imagination, which is a pretty cool thing in itself. But on another level you could say Joy was being weighed down by Imagination. Only when she let go of imagination, was she able to soar.

Sometimes the imaginary scenario, what life could be, prevents us from experiencing any joy with the way things are. Imagination can be a powerful coping mechanism, it can give you the tools to make the best out of a situation, after all, the vehicle of Joy’s escape was an innovation created entirely from imagination. But there comes a point when imagination can be the very thing that’s stopping you from coping. And that’s a pretty powerful message for a kids movie.

Watch the scene here:

Movie Monday: Max


This is a somewhat recent movie, so warning, spoilers ahead.

Max opens with a slice of life of a Marine in Afghanistan. Kyle, Max’s person, and a group of soldiers search a town for a hidden weapons cache. Max finds it and everyone’s super happy.


The scene cuts to Loralie Gilmore, I know she has a real name, but I don’t feel like looking it up right now, talking in the fakest southern accent imaginable on the clearest computer screen ever. Seriously, it’s like Kyle is in the room with her. Grouchy grandma, oh wait, that’s supposed to be her husband. Sure. Is behind her, fixing a perpetually broken sink, and mopey teen is in the living room playing video games. Kyle recaps Max’s heroic feat, Mrs. Gilmore declares “Ya’ll botha desurve a mehdle or somethin.”


Why? Seriously, why? Why is hollywood incapable of realizing that not everyone with a southern accent talks like a caricature? Agh! I’m going to have to sit through an entire MOVIE of this.

Oh, wait, they’re in Texas. Maybe…nope, still annoying, still fake. Also, why is she the only one with an accent? Literally no one else in the movie had one?

Anyway, Kyle is interrupted by another soldier saying that the brass needs to talk to him right now. Turns out, some of the weapons they found are missing. It’s been going on for awhile. Kyle swears he just handles the dog and is excused from the room. On the way out he confronts his best friend from childhood, Tyler, and says he didn’t know what he was doing before, but he knows now and he can’t cover for him. Come clean, or he will.

That night, Kyle is sleeping, Tyler is ominously getting ready for something, and Max is watching. Always watching.

The next day, things go south when Tyler insists they ignore Max’s signal to wait, which by the way looks no different than his all clear signal. Thank goodness Kyle is there to interpret. Kyle agrees and sends Max forward for some reason when boom, bang, explosions. Kyle rushes into the fray, Tyler ducks behind a rock. The smoke clears and Kyle’s been shot and Max is going nuts. Tyler’s about to shoot Max when other soldiers come in and subdue the dog.

Cut to pouty teenager, apparently named Justin, pirating a video game. He gives the copy to his friend Chuy, and says he two-hundred for it. Grumpy Dad rounds the corner and Chuy takes off. Grumpy dad chastises mopey kid for not coming to work this morning, this incredibly awkward and poorly acted exchange is blessedly cut short when soldiers come to the door bearing bad news.


At the funeral, a group of marines come about midway through the service, and because being late isn’t bad enough, walk right up to the front row and apologize to Mrs. Gilmore for being late. Max is barking and going nuts and eventually gets free so he can curl up beside the coffin. I know it’s supposed to be a touching moment, but when Mrs. Gilmore nods at the paster, indicating he can continue the service, all I can think of is how rude it was that they literally just interrupted a funeral! Wait until the part where everyone is lining up to pay their respects like a normal person. I can see the dog getting loose from he back of the church, but what were they doing walking up to the front like that?

To make matters worse, while the family is trying to mourn, Max is resisting leaving the coffin. He’s barking and growling, but as he passes Justin, he grows strangely calm.

“Who are you?” A true idiot of a marine asks in a slightly amazed voice.

Yes, who could the child standing between Kyle’s parents be?

“Our son?” Mrs. Gilmore asks, gradually dropping the accent as the movie progresses.

“He must be able to sense it. Can you help us get him in the cage? I mean, I know it’s your brother’s funeral and everything, but it’ll just take a minute.”

So the family leaves the casket to walk the dog until he gets to his cage.


Look, I’m not saying the dog shouldn’t have come to the funeral, but why did they try to make him leave while everyone was still milling around? Like, it’s bad enough they got there late and disrupted the entire funeral once, can’t they just wait? Maybe the family wanted a minute? My god, have some respect.I mean, this family has been through enough. Do they really have to watch their sons dog cry and fight as he wrestled into a cage and muzzled?

The scene shifts to Justin pirating another game, but his heart just isn’t into it, so he goes to explore his brother’s room. His dad interrupts with a speech about how Justin has so much to learn from his brother about “being a man.” The two get into an argument, and my hatred for grumpy dad increases, because seriously, your son is allowed to mourn to. If you can’t manage to say something comforting, shut up.

Their argument is interrupted by Mrs. Gilmore telling them that “they’re going to kill Max.” Again, WHY would they even tell the family that right now? There son just died! It’s like the screen writers are trying to make this movie about mourning and moving on, only they’ve forgotten that death is something that needs to be mourned and moved on from.

Despite the dog being dangerous and unstable, the family gets approval to take him home. “Kyle’s gone,” grumpy dad snaps when Justin points out that he doesn’t want to do this. “This is your dog now.”

4-legged hero in the spotlight in 'Max'

Please don’t eat me

Okay, but maybe he doesn’t want a dog. Maybe he doesn’t want HIS BROTHER’S dog. Even ignoring the fact that it’s a huge, unstable dog with flashing teeth that they have to keep chained up in the backyard so he doesn’t hurt anyone and that’s a hell of a lot of responsibility to lay at the feet of a child, there’s an emotional component there, a living, breathing reminder that this dog is somewhat nice around you because it basically thinks he’s his dead brother. Or senses something of his dead brother in him, or I don’t know. Dead brother. Like, it’s a lot. And I’m not saying he shouldn’t keep the dog, but it’s really disturbing to me that Justin doesn’t have a voice in this. That his grief and his feelings aren’t respected.

Also, not cool having your dog chained up in the front yard in the heat of a Texas summer. No.

47906920.cmsThe next day, Justin goes off with his BMXing group of friends and meets Chuy’s cousin, Carmen. She got kicked out of her house because she got a tattoo. She’s not impressed with anyone. She has a snarky answer for everything. And she’s a dog training expert. She’s also really hung up on respect. Respect your dad, don’t let him disrespect me, respect Max. It’s like her buzz word. I want to like her as a character because given proper development, she could be interesting, but she’s just this over the top caricature. I don’t know that it’s her fault though? It may just be that she’s the only character that has a laugh track. Every time she says anything, there’s a group of boys in the background going “ooh! Dang!”

Cue dog training montage. Max makes progress, yay! As a thank you, Mrs. Gilmore invites Carmen to THE most awkward family dinner ever. First Mrs. Gilmore cries because she overcooked the food because she was distracted thinking about Kyle, then when Carmen reveals she knows so much about dogs because her father and brother trains pitfalls, Grumpy Dad goes “to fight?” “Um, no, jerk. He rescues them.”

I feel so bad for her character. She just keeps being put in SUPER awkward situation after situation.

Also,  commentary on family dynamic. The parents feel like they should be set in the fifties. Maybe sixties. Like maybe they’re the generation that raised Kitty and Red Foreman. But the kids are “modern” only it’s actually like they’re an old person’s idea of what kids are like these days. All sulky and disrespectful and pirating video games on giant screens with complex codes and numbers flashing by. Carmen is your modern girl that doesn’t need anyone’s approval but her own, tough as nails, tons of attitude who by the second act of the movie is following Justin’s lead and wearing dresses and makeup.


Who the hell are you?

Anyway, Tyler randomly shows up. Without calling. After dark. In the middle of dinner, to pay his respects and asks “I’m sorry, who are you?” to Carmen when she asks a really logical question about him being discharged. Does no one have manners? Max goes nuts and lunges at him. “Dogs are pretty good judges of character,” Carmen points out later, just in case we didn’t get the piling heaps of hints that maybe Tyler is a bad guy.

The next day, Justin and Max go on a bike ride, seeming to be relaxed and happy, and settled in a routine. They head to their biker friends and Justin flirts with Carmen and shows off what an awesome bike rider he is.

Their happy mood is dashed when they get home to find a huge metal cage in the middle of their yard.

“Your father doesn’t want to argue about it,” Mrs. Gilmore says as she scrubs dishes.

Why would anyone argue about putting a dog in a metal box in the middle of a sun filled yard in the heat of a Texas summer. What is wrong with these people?


The scene shifts to a Fourth of July Parade. The parents are having a moment of quiet grieving together while Justin realizes that maybe the dog that has PTSD and can’t stand the sound of explosions or gun shots may have a reaction to fireworks and rushes home. In a truly touching moment, he climbs in the cage with Max and there’s this sense that they are there for each other. Which is good. Because Justin’s parents sure never stopped to think that maybe all the military pride stuff might make their other son think about his dead brother.

I think this is one of those thinks that bothers me because I’m a parent. I could have enjoyed this movie so much more pre-Bella, but now that I’ve had her, I have to look at things from a parent’s perspective, and I just can’t help being mad at them. I can’t imagine the grief they’re going through, I honestly can’t. It’s too terrible to think about. But it’s like the narrative never even acknowledges that Justin might feel it to beyond a passing moment of sadness when someone mentions his brother. Actual grief. Like, it would be okay if at any point in the movie the adults acknowledged “we haven’t really been there for you, I’m sorry,” but they don’t. And the narrative treats that like nothing odd happened.

The scene shifts to Tyler who is now working for Grumpy Dad. Grumpy dad listens to Tyler and has a more real conversation with him inside five minutes than he’s had with his son the entire movie. It’s because they’re both real men.

Tyler implies that Kyle died because of Max, so in a truly ridiculous move, Grumpy Dad goes home and tries to kill Max. To his credit, he tries to take him somewhere else first, but when Max doesn’t comply, he pulls out his gun and gets ready to shoot.

“Dad? What are you doing.” Justin demands.

“Go inside.”


Right. Because it’s totally cool to shoot the dog your son has bonded with as long as he’s INSIDE the house. The dog that senses something of his brother in him, his dead brother. The dog he’s been responsible for and worked hard to train.

“It’s his fault,” the dad explains. And I get its grief, I do. But…

Justin talks him down, pointing out that Kyle would never put people in danger by working with an unstable dog (I mean, YOU would totally put your family, your son, and your neighbors in danger by bringing a dog you KNOW is unstable to our house than not sticking around for five minutes to make sure your chain can hold when Max lunges once (it didn’t, for the record)) But KYLE would never do that.”

Dad relents with…and here’s the thing I can’t forgive him for “If he messes up ONCE, he’s gone.”

YOUR SON JUST LOST HIS BROTHER. This is ALL he has left of him and he didn’t even WANT the dog! And now you’re going to put THAT kind of pressure on him! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!


Anyway, Justin knows something is fishy about Tyler’s story, so he seeks out the funeral interrupter and asks for the scoop. Tyler was discharged by the administration, not because of a medical issue though, he’ll look into it. (Aren’t these records supposed to be private?) And he gives Justin a classified DVD to watch.

Justin takes the DVD to Carmen, figuring it’s dog training tips from the army or something, and instead is treated to a montage of amazingly filmed footage between his brother and Max, from puppyhood to adulthood. It’s ridiculously gorgeous and sentimental, and Justine wasn’t the only one getting weepy during it.

BTW, cue another super awkward situation for Carmen.


This is a gorgeous shot. The colors! Wow!

Then Emilio shows up and ruins the moment by demanding more pirated video games. He insults Carmen, basically implies that it’s a good thing Kyle is dead, and takes a phone call from…Tyler.

Justin demands his money up front, and as soon as Emilio drives away, uses the money to give Max a scent to follow. They ride through the forest and find Emilio, Tyler, a Deputy, and two members of a Mexican drug Cartel talking about a weapons exchange. Tyler is selling weapons across the border. Color me surprised.

Two dobermans catch on to the fact that they have company and chase Max and Justin through the woods. Max leads the dogs away from Justin. Justin crashes his bike and leaves it behind, getting to the highway with Max and catching a ride to the vets office to treat Max’s bite wounds. When he gets home, the police are waiting to take Max away for biting that deputy. Justin starts to object, but Kyle takes him to the side and after an actually deeply interesting exchange that implies that if Justin doesn’t keep his mouth shut his whole family is going to die.


“I’m just a small fish in a big pond. The big fish sell weapons all over the world and then send wide-eyed hicks like me and your brother over there so we can get shot and killed by ’em so they can cry their crocodile tears, salute the flag, and then sell some more.”

I actually liked the dynamic they had between Justin and Tyler. There was a bit of the cliche “you’re just like me,” but more than that, there was a sense of fear. This is a kid. He’s what, nineteen? And he’s in way over his head with scary people who will kill entire families to get what they want. What he’s saying to Justine isn’t from a place of being evil, it’s from a place of fear. And it’s an interesting departure from his role in the movie so far as the cartoonish villain trying to kill the dog before it can “tell” on him. I wish they’d approached it like this from the get go.

They take Max away to euthanize him, but he escapes once he gets to the pound. Meanwhile, Grumpy dad catches on that something is amiss with Kyle when he catches Kyle and the Deputy taking a bunch of guns out of a storage unit. Dad is kidnapped, but manages to call home and tell his wife “I’m hanging out at the hunting cabin, don’t worry.”

“We have a hunting cabin?” Justin demands.

“No. We do not have a hunting cabin,” Mrs. Gilmore explains.


Cue a wild and crazy rescue mission with Max, Carmen, Chuy, and most importantly Grumpy Dad and Justin working together. Mrs. Gilmore gets a shining moment when she yells at the police for tearing up the neighborhood looking for a missing dog when her husband is missing and they won’t even consider looking for him until he’s been gone over forty-eight hours. Other shining moments she had include when she finally pointed out to her husband that he should ask what’s going on with his son because she doesn’t want to lose another one. I’m actually kind of glad Justin didn’t open up to him though, because that would have been really unrealistic after the way he’s been raised. She also has a moment where she tells Justin she’s “been keeping the peace between you and your father for too long,” that felt realistic, yet annoying, because her husband is clearly the one in the wrong. Yes, the kid is sulky and has a bad attitude, but he’s not even treated like a person, so who can blame him.


For a minute it looks like the dog dies. SPOILER, he doesn’t. And we get a touching moment with Justin talking to Kyle’s headstone.

It wasn’t an awful movie. In fact, according to Bella, it was “The goodest movie ever! I didn’t know you could walk a dog without a leash or ride a bike with your dog.”

But the weird out of sync with time feel, the flat characterization, and the ineptitude of the parents left a lot to be desired. If you want the feel good highlights without the angst, watch this instead.

Movie Monday: Christmas Movies

Want to get in the Holiday spirit? Here are the  Christmas movie I watch every year without fail.

While You were Sleeping


I love this one. It’s so sappy and romantic. It’s the perfect holiday film. I remember wanting to adopt Sandra Bullock. I was six. That’s how well she pulled off acting cute and lonely.

Love Actually


The Christmas chick flick to end all Christmas Chick Flicks. I love the way all the plots come together.

Rise of the Guardians


Also works great as an easter movie. Seriously though, this is a really good cartoon. I can watch this one over and over again. Which is good, given my six year old who also loves it.




Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer


It must be watched every Christmas. No matter what. Sure, it’s kind of painful to sit through,but it’s a classic. This year I’m going to see it at the Center for Puppetry Arts, so hopefully that will help.


The Santa Clause


Just the first one. But it’s a great Christmas movie.



This movie should irritate the life out of me, but it doesn’t. It’s well on its way to becoming a classic, and it’s kind of cool to have been around when a classic was in theaters.

Any made for TV holiday movie I saw growing up


Whenever I can find them, I watch them. My favorites were the one about the mannequin coming to life to be the girls new mom and the Groundhog day one about Christmas. The new ones I don’t like as much. But that’s because I didn’t grow up with them.

Any Christmas episode of any show I watch


It’s fun to watch my favorite characters do Christmasy things! Particularly when there’s a dark twist on it (Buffy was always good at that).

What gets you in the mood for the holidays?



Movie Monday: Homeward Bound


Homeward Bound is one of those movies I watched over and over and over again as a child. And now, because karma is real, I watch it over and over and over again with my child. But hey, there are worse movies. I still kind of love Homeward Bound.

I’m not going to do a long summary of homeward bound, both because the premise is pretty simple, and I’m afraid if I get to typing I might discover that I can actually reproduce the whole movie verbatim.

So here’s my attempt at brevity:

Chance, Shadow, and Sassy (2 dogs, 1 cat) are left with a friend of the families during their human’s temporary move, they’re not content to be left behind. They escape the farm and take off on a dangerous journey across the Sierra Mountains to reunite with their loved ones. Along the way, they run into all kinds of problems, but are ultimately successful in finding their way home.

Great movie. Love it. Love the soundtrack, love the scenery, love the characters, love everything about it, except for something I never realized until I was an adult.

A temporary move.

The Seaver family, comprised of three children, one wife, and one newly married into the family husband, move at some point shortly before the school year begins and return by Thanksgiving because the brand new husband has a vey temporary job in San Fransisco, which is incidentally within reasonable enough driving distance from their home to visit on weekends.

Why? Why would you do that to three school aged children? It wasn’t even an entire semester? The oldest is in High School! It’s not a small deal to entirely move schools during a single semester. What good does coming back just in time for Thanksgiving break to end and finals to begin do? If it was a year, I’d understand, but it was just the I’d say it was for the experience of living in a new place but it wasn’t like they moved far, and again they could have visited on weekends.

Did I mention that they literally made this move the day they got married? The balloons and Chance’s digestive issue prove it was literally the same day. The kids seem to have a great relationship with Bob and all, but way to leave them zero time to process that there’s this huge and permanent change in their family before driving all night to leave their beloved animals that they clearly use as coping mechanisms with a near stranger.

Also, They wouldn’t even go inside this lady’s house. They’re leaving their animals with her for five months and they won’t even go inside for a few minutes to socialize. That’s how thoughtless/bad at planning these people are. It’s either thoughtless (as in they just didn’t think about the massive favor she was doing wit them and consider that maybe taking her out to dinner or something would be polite) or bad at planning because they left immediately after their wedding, drove overnight, and were in such bad shape time wise to get Bob to his new job, that they couldn’t stop for longer than a few minutes, even if it meant giving the kids some time out of the car and to really say goodbye to their animals.

Those poor children. No wonder Shadow was so determined to get back to Peter. His parents aren’t looking out for him at all.

This seriously bothers me more every time I watch it. Despite my issues with the humans, it’s still a great movie. I just wish I wasn’t watching it for the fiftieth time this year.




Movie Monday: The Swan Princess

I’m just gonna put this video here and I’m not even going to summarize this because I maintain that “This is my Idea” is THE best growing up montage penned to film. You get to know the characters, watch them grow, establish firmly that what they have isn’t istalove (there’s a small element of that when Derrick finally catches on that Odette’s gorgeous, but the narrative backs up the fact that they were raised together and know each other on a level most prince/princess stories don’t).


Immediately after the song, Odette asks what Derrick sees in her other than her beauty. Odette’s hesitation makes a lot of sense because she’s known Derrick her ENTIRE life and he’s never seemed to notice her before she got pretty, whereas in the song, we see that she was more than willing to be friends with him on multiple occasions. Derrick screws up and asks “what else is there,” prompting Odette to leave and their brief engagement is dashed to pieces.

On their way out of the kingdom, Odette and her father are attacked by “a great animal.”



“That’s twice in one day!”

Meanwhile, Derrick is playing chess with his best friend and trying to ignore his steward’s lecture. One of the things I love about this movie is how well the background characters are fleshed out. I only wish Odette interacted with a single other female character even once in the movie. The evil female character is literally mute and she never even talks to Derrick’s mom. Not once. Not in a single scene.


Anyway, Derrick’s just decided to prove his love for Odette since he’s incapable of vocalizing it, when an injured guard bursts in to tell him Odette’s carriage has been attacked. Derrick rushes to the scene and discovers her father just in time to hear his last words.Derrick’s grief when Odette is lost and his grief for the king seem very realistic, and he’s the ONLY character that seems to grieve (well, other than Odette).His mom instantly goes on with life as though a long time family friend and surragette daughter weren’t just brutally killed in her kingdom.


The scene switches to Odette and Rothbar, the bad guy. Rothbar wants to marry Odette so he can take over her father’s kingdom. I wonder what happened to Odette’s kingdom though? Like it seems to be an integral part of the villains plan, to take over her father’s kingdom, but the King is dead and the heir is presumed dead. But it’s never addressed again.

Also, I love how important consent is in this universe. The King and Queen worried Odette wouldn’t consent to the marriage with Derrick, and when she didn’t, that was that (though they could force her to spend every summer with him). Rothbar can literally turn people into animals and has a ridiculous amount of power, and he can’t force her to marry him.

Meanwhile, Derrick is practicing his hunting skills on the local musicians. He’s sure Odette’s not dead and he’s going to keep practicing until he’s sure he can take on any great animal.

Meanwhile Odette is making friends with the sentient woodland creatures and making zero effort to figure out where she is. I mean, I get to turn back human she has to be on the lake when the moonlight touches is, but why turn back human? In human form, Rothbar just keeps pestering her to marry him. I’d stay in Swan form until I could *do* something as a human.

Oh, curse caveat, the curse can only be broken when her true love professes his love to the world and does something to prove it. Odette immediately decides Derrick’s her true love, even though she doubted it the day before. But then again, now she’s alone in the world and he’s the only one left that she knows.

The scene shifts to a beautiful duet between Derrick and Odette that I’m just gonna put right here because I love it.

Derrick eventually makes an unlikely connection and realizes the animal is a shape shifter. Meanwhile, Derrick’s mom is trying to marry him off and Odette finally decides to DO something about her predicament and with a risky mission (where she stands watch) she obtains a map.

She and puffin track down Derrick, who meanwhile is hunting a shapeshifter. He spots Odette and determines SHE must be the great animal and follows her back to the pond, shooting arrows all the way. She lands in the water, changes back, and they hug, kiss, and hatch a plan. Derrick’s going to prove his love for her at the ball tomorrow.

Only Odette’s forgotten tomorrow there’s no moon. But Rothbar’s overheard the plan and sings the worst villain song ever while disguising his mute helper as Odette. Fake Odette goes to the ball and everyone’s all “is that Odette?” “I don’t know, we only saw her every summer for Derrick’s entire life and like, 3 days ago.” “Huh, maybe it is her.”

Derrick professes his love to the wrong swan, mortally wounding Odette. Derrick figures out his error and rushes to the lake only to find Odette breathing her last.


Furious and grief stricken, Derrick goes after Rothbar and in a truly awesome scene with all kinds of callbacks to the beginning, fights and defeats Rothbar with a single arrow.

Returning to the lake, Derrick makes this tearful confession:


And it’s enough to bring back Odette. They live happily every after.

I love this movie so much. I mean, there’s major plot holes, and it’s missing other female characters, and Odette’s pretty passive, and they didn’t USE the fact that these two characters have known each other their entire lives nearly enough, but it’s a pretty good movie. So glad Bella wanted to watch it.





Movie Monday: The Good Dinosaur


I’m not going to go into much detail on this one because 1. It’s new and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone and 2. At $10 a ticket, I’m only going to be watching it once until it comes out on iTunes.

But man was it a good movie.

The Good Dinosaur is The Lion King meets Milo and Otis with DINOSAURS. It’s also a coming of age/boy with his dog story. The movie manages to cram a lot of theme work in despite long stretches of Pixar quality silence.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not UP. But it was a really good movie. Beautiful imagery, surprisingly intense plot, somewhat epic, at times genuinely terrifying for my six year old, (two words: Sky Sharks, you’ll get it when you see it) at other times it was heart wrenching (Stick Figures will make you cry, fair warning), and oddly lacking in comic relief, it’s definitely worth a watch.

Movie Monday: Return of Jafar

Until I can safely venture back into the realm of Mythology Monday’s (I’m out of myths that don’t pertain to the book AFTER my next book is released), I’m changing up my blog a little bit. Wednesdays I’ll be writing about writing, Fridays will still be about real world issues, they just won’t be linked to myths, and Mondays…I’m still playing around with. But for right now, how about Movie Mondays, where I overanalyze one of my daughter’s movies.

See here’s the thing. As a parent, I find myself watching the same movies over and over and over again. And as a writer, that gives me a lot of time to stare into the gaping plot holes and grumble. Since these grumblings amuse me, I figured why not use it for a blog post in case it amuses you too? So as I watch a movie for the umpteenth time, I’ll summarize and record my thoughts in these blog entries. Let me know what you think.

And to show you how little control I have over these movies, rather than this blog feature starting with the Little Mermaid, Tangled, or Aladdin, we’re starting with The Return of Jafar. Because THAT’S what my daughter wants to watch for some reason. *grumble grumble*



Return of Jafar starts exactly like Aladdin. SO much like Aladdin, I thought I was starting the wrong movie, until I noticed just how jerky the animation is. It took me a few seconds to convince Bella I hadn’t just made a mistake and restarted Aladdin, but she caught on when a group of thieves started counting their loot. A small furry hand darts in and takes a piece of treasure while Abis Mal shows off his poor leadership skills. Aladdin shows up to steal the loot and for a moment, I got really confused. Why is he stealing when he’s essentially a prince? Is this just setting up how he and Abis Mal know each other and in a few seconds we’ll flash for–nope, because there’s Carpet. What’s going on? It’s been a while since I saw this movie, but I didn’t expect to be so confused.
Meanwhile, Jafar and Iago are bickering and Iago, after singing a song that sparked a ton of random memories (seriously, I remembered every word, how weird is that), decides to go take over Agrabah by becoming friends with Aladdin.

Back to Aladdin, he’s playing Robin Hood and throwing stolen gold to starving children on the streets. Very impractical solution that’s no doubt wreaking havoc with Agrahbah’s economy, putting those street children in danger by giving them something bigger, stronger, meaner people can take, and/or getting them in trouble with the over zealous guards. Kind of surprised that there hasn’t been a lot of reform since Jafar was deposed. Jasmine clearly didn’t know how bad things were on the streets in the first movie, and how much the Sultan was told was questionable given his advisor, but what’s the excuse for the rampant starvation and homelessness now? And why is Aladdin the only one doing anything about it?


This will totally last us until the next time Aladdin decides to go on an adventure.

Aladdin and Iago meet up just as Aladdin bumps into the group of thieves. They bicker but eventually Aladdin and Iago team up after Iago convinces Aladdin Jafar hypnotized him into being bad and saved Aladdin from the thieves. Aladdin realizes he owes Iago his life, but says he still has to turn him over to the Sultan. First he’ll soften the royals up though so they won’t kill Iago on site.

Jasmine pops up, and my god, her voice is so…I don’t know why it annoys me so much, but I really don’t like it. Also, her character has done a total 180. She used to be such a spitfire and now she’s all “Oh darling, you rescued a princess.” I guess love “softened” her, but she didn’t need to be softened. Also, she had a pretty big hand in saving the day in the first movie and that’s swept totally under the rug here.


“I’m even more useless now!”

Genie comes back for a visit because he missed his friends and sings a song I had literally no memory of. He also manages to establish that as a free genie he’s not as strong as he used to be. Nicely done on avoiding the God Complex, Disney. Though honestly, Genie never seemed to be truly powerful. After all, he technically never granted Aladdin his original wish, to BE a prince. Not to pretend to be a prince, not to impersonate a prince, but to be one. Genie’s always been real good with illusion, not so much in actual delivery. The main characters depart for dinner and the scene switches to Abis Mal discovering Jafar’s lamp.


You aint never had a friend like me!

The sequence where Jafar takes Mal through his wishes is the reason I spent more hours than I can count as a child perfecting the phrasing of my three wishes should I ever find a genie. Honestly, that scene had a much more profound impact on my life than it should have. It’s probably influenced why my characters can’t lie and all my practice getting them to say things so specifically. Language games are fun 🙂

The Sultan makes Aladdin his royal advisor but then all hell breaks loose when the royals discover that Aladdin was harboring Iago. Jasmine and Aladdin argue about Aladdin hiding things from her again, and then Iago helps them patch things up with the “Forget about Romance” song. Another song I knew every word of. I loved this song. I honestly think they wrote this movie because they didn’t include Iago in enough songs in the first movie.
Speaking of Iago, it’s really amazing how much more  common sense he has than genie. He gets hints that Al and Jas want to be alone. He picks up on nuances. It’s really refreshing having a side kick that isn’t clueless so the protagonist can look good and he really rounds out the team for the TV series. This movie did a really good job setting the tone for the TV series over all.


Anyway, Jasmine is appeased, but her father’s still pissed, so the group decides that Aladdin just needs to spend more time with him to win him over. Aladdin, Iago, Carpet, and Sultan fly off for a picnic the next day, which is of course a trap. Jafar and Abis Mal attack. For some reason the carpet doesn’t just sweep up the Sultan and fly away with him, and instead tries to defend the Sultan by tripping the bad guys. Can I just say how much better Jafar is as a genie than Genie. I mean, he’s obviously evil, but in terms of using powers he puts Genie to shame. Anyway, Aladdin is tossed into a raging river and the Sultan is carried away and Jafar congratulates Iago on his betrayal.
Aladdin wakes up, yells at Iago and returns to Agrabah only to realize he’s been framed for killing the Sultan (apparently torn hats = bodies? I don’t know, I feel like a more ambitious palace guard would…like…search for their missing ruler.) Jasmine comes in, acting all not Jasmine like at all, and yells at Aladdin for killing her father, sentences him to death, and runs off in tears before morphing into Jafar and revealing dun-dun-dun! The real Jasmine and Sultan chained up in another part of the castle (great job searching, guards) and Genie trapped in a magical bubble.


Disturbing on so many levels

Meanwhile, my daughter is experiencing major sympathy pains for Iago. “He didn’t have a choice, Mommy. Why are they so mad?” I’m struggling for the words to explain how people often blame the victims in emotionally abusive relationships and how she’s right, it’s not fair. Iago is a tiny, helpless bird. All he has is his attitude and what’s that against an evil wizard, much less an all powerful genie. Jafar, as a human, put a full grown man-child of a king under his thumb. What exactly could a bird have done differently? Maybe the characters are so angry at Iago because he represents their helplessness?

Although, to be fair, first movie Iago had no nuance. He delighted in Jafar’s evil plans.And he started this movie out to take over Agrabah…so…. Some pre-planning would have made this whole transition a lot more believable.



Anyway, Iago flies to the dungeon and while ignoring all Jasmine and the Sultan’s bashing, frees the genie first, because he’s the most intelligent member of team Aladdin. The others realize what he’s doing and have a change of heart regarding their alliance with Iago just in time for them to be freed as well. Genie announces that if they destroy Jafar’s lamp, they destroy Jafar. And here I pause the movie and stare dumbly for a second because…what?


I’m sorry….destroying the lamp was an option? WHY DIDN’T THEY DESTROY IT AT THE END OF THE FIRST MOVIE? Why would they rely on the cave of Wonders? By the way, how did Jafar escape from the Cave of Wonders? That was kind of unclear. I mean, the start of the movie shows Iago digging the lamp out of the sand, but um…was it really that easy? Why couldn’t Jafar have dug INTO the cave of wonders to get the lamp in the first movie then? And why would Jafar sitting in a lamp for 10,000 years before being released into the world with major powers be a good thing? This completely undid the cleverness of the end of the first movie.


Itty Bitty Brain

Anyway, they release Aladdin, and team Aladdin go on a mission to destroy the lamp. Mal is supposed to use his third wish to release Jafar, but he hesitates because what if all of his wishes go away without the genie there (nice call back to Aladdin’s hesitation in movie one, although, again I maintain that if the genies actually granted the wishes, not the illusion of them,this wouldn’t be an issue). During their argument, team Aladdin makes a play for the lamp,but failed to reach it. Iago swoops in to save the day and flys off with the lamp (instead of just dropping it in the lava, but okay, and gets critically hit by Jafar. The lamp and Iago land on a rock. Aladdin tries to knock it off the rock, but can’t reach, and Iago summons just enough strength to kick the lamp into the lava. The ground starts to shake, Aladdin is somehow magically able to reach Iago on the same rock he couldn’t reach the lamp on, and takes him to safety. Iago looks dead,but this is Disney, so they manage to work in the phrase “you’d be surprised what you can live through” into the movie 10001 times, Aladdin turns down the position of royal advisor and goes off to see the world with Jasmine.


We don’t give a flying f*ck about out people!

Um…okay, selfish much? First of all, royal advisor was part of the Sultan’s slow plan to legitimize Aladdin in the eyes of his subjects so he could marry his daughter. Secondly, as a former street rat who better than anyone in the palace know how the subjects feel about their king and what they need, he could do a lot of good? Maybe instead of stealing treasure, he could point out that…I don’t know, the sultan’s people are STARVING.

Eh, at least I know why I only watched this movie once as a kid. And it entertained Bella for a while. 3 Stars.