A young Puss in Boots (Anotnio Banderas) is an orphaned kitten that makes his home at an orphanage in San Ricardo with his adoptive mother and best friend, Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis). Perpetual outcast and lofty dreamer, Humpty, and his made blood brother, Puss, have their fair share of run-ins with the Comandate (Guillermo del Toro!) and the law. One such incident tears the duo apart, forcing Puss to go on the run as a wanted feline.
It isn’t until years later that Puss is reunited with Humpty through a mysterious, masked caper who reveals herself as Kitty Softpaws (Selma Hayek). The three of them embark on an adventure to steal magic beans from a couple of brutish outlaws, Jack and Jill, to gain entrance to the castle in the sky for the giant’s riches. After successfully stealing the booty, all of their troubles begin.
I went into this expecting another ill-conceived, pointless spin-off but what I got was a silly, well-animated flick with plenty of humor and a genuinely emotional story to balance it out. I was literally laughing out loud. Maybe too loudly at the glaucoma/catnip reference that flew over the little ones’ heads and, to top it off, I was the only one… that was awkward. Needless to say, it felt good to connect with the kid inside of me and at the same time snicker at jokes clearly aimed at the adults in the audience. Good family fun for all ages!
Mary and Max is a multi-award winning animation that chronicles the relationship between Mary Daisy Dinkle (Toni Collette), a young, insecure girl in Australia who is the only daughter of an alcoholic mother and a neglectful father, and Max Jerry Horowitz (Philip Seymour Hoffman), an overweight, panic-ridden man in New York. One day, Mary picks the first name she finds in a phone book and sends a letter, along with a chocolate bar, prompting a decades long correspondence of letters and chocolate treats. Although Max has longed for a real friend (his imaginary friend sits on a stool reading all day), Mary’s sensitive questions propel him into anxiety attacks, one so severe he ends up in a mental institution.
Many years pass with no mail from Max. In between waiting for word from him, Mary becomes smitten with the next door neighbor boy, Damien (Eric Bana), and continues helping her agoraphobic neighbor, Len. Considering advice from his therapist, he finally writes to Mary and confides in her that he has Asperger’s Syndrome which affects his social interaction. She decides to enter into university to study mental disorders and ends up penning a highly acclaimed book with Max as her case study. The news is not well-received by Max and he cuts off communication with her, which sends Mary into a drug-induced, drunken stupor (after shredding her hard work to pieces and damning her career). On the verge of suicide, she wonders if Max will ever forgive her.
Let me immediately point out that this is not for young children or tweens. Don’t be wooed by the cartoon cover art or pictures of adorable Mary Daisy Dinkle with her clunky glasses and red barrette. It’s a complicated tale meant for adults. If you are unable to process rather gloomy, disheartening material without being able to bounce back emotionally, avoid this movie. Aside from the celebration of enduring friendship, there isn’t much to smile about. Alcoholism, mental illness, loneliness, pill popping, heartbreak, four deaths, overeating, involuntary manslaughter, schoolyard bullying… a small list of the obstacles the characters struggle to overcome.
The animation is beautifully done and the characters are a peculiar, quirky bunch with a myriad of flaws but endearing in their own ways. The stop-motion figures on the screen breathe life, full of raw, human emotion in such a profound manner, it can be a distressing, suffocating experience. That’s balanced with some incredibly kooky humor. The storyline flows effortlessly but, ultimately, it won’t appeal to a wider audience. High praise for writer and director, Adam Elliot, for having a unique vision and sticking to his guns. There has been mixed reviews on Barry Humphries’ narration. Personally, I found his voice very soothing.
This film appeases two long-time love affairs, claymation and stop-motion. It tickled my funny bone at the right moments but it was too melancholy, even for me.