Monday, June 15, 2015

Bold Eagles

So I got this message on Facebook:

Personal request. Please watch the animated film "Bold Eagles"- available on Netflix- and tell me what you think. Evy picked it out this evening, and I can honestly say it is one if the most disturbing films I've ever seen. You'll know what I mean once you watch it. If you can make it through to the end, that is...

Sadly, I don't have Netflix.  Oh, well.  But wait, I do have Hulu.  Could it be that this movie is on both streaming services at once?

...well, long story made short, yes.  It is.

So let's give it a watch.

First off, a bit of backstory.  Phase 4 films is what The Asylum would be if, instead of trying to be so bad they're awesome, they just settled on bad.  Anything they can't buy the rights to cheap (see: PBS children's shows), they just try to copy.  After all, who could possibly want to miss out on the wacky romantic hijinks of Two Night Stand or the clearly not derivative of anything Death Squad?

Of course, if you can't simply buy the rights to shows that nobody cares about anymore or create knock-offs, why not just buy something made internationally, butcher it up like a pig, and serve the carcass?  Such is the case of Pelle Politibil, a Norwegian character active since the 80's who was able to make a semi-successful transition to 3D animation with several film releases.  I can guarantee you, however, that this movie will make little to no effort to explore that rich history, and will probably bump the character into the background of his own movie.

The film opens amidst a small storm of Norwegian actors who aren't actually in the movie any more, and we see an eagle flying to a mountain top peeking just over the tops of the clouds.  In defiance of all sense, this peak that sits above the clouds (in Norway, very likely) has no snow on it.

This is also in defiance of nature, since eagles build their nests in trees near lakes and rivers so that there's an ample food supply nearby.

The eagle lands on its nest and we see a lone egg inside before it cuts to the opening title and then immediately jumps to two worrying policemen, one of whom sounds like somebody trying their best to do a Seth Macfarlane impression (poorly).  They're worried because "the princess" is running late. One of the officers isn't named yet, but the other one is called "Uncle Richard."

"Officer Uncle Richard."


However, Uncle Richard states that they can't "start" something yet because they have to wait for "Radar."  The other officer is immediately panic-stricken because "Radar" has a pair of scissors and they need him to show up with them.

So yeah, this "Radar" character.  Look at the cover up there and try to figure out which character is Radar.  You have a wide-eyed baby eagle who the tagline clearly states is a "hero" and some kind of freaky rejected Ice Age sloth character design as done by a twelve year old holding a net, so that could be our villain.  Why the villain is being carried by another eagle to catch the first eagle, I have no idea.

So of those three, which one is Radar?

No, and we should be so lucky.

THIS is Radar!

Suddenly I feel a lot less and a lot more animosity towards the Cars franchise, all at the same time.

That, for the record, is the star of the Pelle Politibil series.  He didn't even get an appearance on the DVD cover.

Radar is such a do-gooder, he immediately feels the need to almost cause traffic accidents to keep some ducklings from being run over.

Meanwhile, at a park, a group of children play "Anchor's Aweigh" because I can only assume it's the national song of Norway, and the police officer thus far unnamed gets before a crowd of people too goofy-looking to appear in Wallace and Grommit to stall with his speech.

First off, to the lade on the right, horizontal stripes are not flattering that body shape.  At all.  To the guy on the far left, I'm pretty sure that sweater doesn't fit.  To th- wait a minute.  There.  Behind the guy in the mustard coat.  That's the same woman as the woman on the right!  What the heck, movie?

This is actually pretty common, as the side shots of the crowd show more of the exact same people in the backgrounds.

The officer talks about how much their area sucks thanks to "migration, winter storms, empty seas, and mosquitos" but he strongly feels that their park will attract a lot of rich tourists.  Radar, meanwhile, is stuck behind a motor home and can't get around it.  The Princess starts to talk, with possibly one of the most annoying voices I've had to listen to in a long time, and it's made all the worse when she keeps screwing up which speech she's supposed to deliver ("this hospital...wait, that's tomorrow.").  The Princess is clearly supposed to be southern, but I'm pretty sure the voice actress has never been any further south than South Dakota, based on how terrible the accent is.

At the end, she asks if she's supposed to cut something, to which the chief constable (that's how she addresses him, anyway) asks if she could "bite it off" instead.  Now, I've never been invited to tea at any royalty's house or been to that many grand openings, but I'm pretty sure you don't ask the guest of honor to "bite it off."

The Princess starts a short walking tour through the park, as Radar drives along behind her and points out the native animals.  There's puffins, a beaver, an arctic fox, and even a waterfall with salmon swimming upstream, and I'm pretty sure there's supposed to be a joke there, because the princess makes a comment about "how charming, with its own jumping fish," after which everybody gets a really nervous grin and Radar makes a "doors locked" chirp.


I don't get it.

Last, they get to see Eagle Peak, with the park's only eagle sitting on the nest near the top.  The Princess makes sure the officers (and Radar) understand that it's very important to keep the eagle safe, because 1) the princess is a "mommy," too, and 2) if anything happens to the eagle, the park will be closed.

First off, good on you for getting that figure back, your highness.

Meanwhile, we cut back to the two people from the motor home, an older woman in a pink track suit and her daughter, there to capture the eagle and turn it onto a mantle ornament.  The daughter doesn't really want anything to do it, insisting that she finally get a "proper vacation" but the mother is apparently Percival McLeach in drag, since she's only concerned with killing animals for rich people to buy.

The mother also insists they pretend to be German for the sake of this trip so "nobody will recognize them" and we get some of the most butchered German I've ever heard out of these characters.

Then we get these two abominations in the face of everything good in the universe.

The unholy spawn of a Muppet and a house cat?

They're clearly meant to be comic relief, but since the male one gets captured by a net twenty seconds after we meet them, I'm just moving on and hoping I never see them again.

Next, we cut back to Uncle Richard and Radar talking about where babies come from.  I'm not making this up.  Radar keeps pestering Uncle Richard about why he doesn't have kids, and Uncle Richard keeps trying to dodge the issue without directly saying "first I need to impregnate a woman."

THANKFULLY, we get a weird meeting between the two heroes (well, the cop and car, anyway) and the two villains doing terrible German.  Uncle Richard and the daughter have an instant "meet cute" romantic eye connection, complete with sleazy disco/jazz music, but considering Uncle Richard looks old enough to date the girl's mother, it's kinda creepy.

Seriously, of the two of these, which would you expect to be "appropriate" for a guy named Uncle Richard to have a relationship with?
The mother starts trying to push her daughter (Elizabeth) and Uncle Richard together ("pimp" sounds too dirty for a kids movie), while Radar is protesting the whole time despite the fact he was JUST PUSHING Uncle Richard to GET A GIRLFRIEND.  You suck, Radar.  Way to cop block.

Radar leaves, dejected, but bumps into Dottie, the lighter-colored proof that nobody actually tried showing character designs to any children asking "hey, what does this character look like?" to make sure they got it right, and apparently Radar can talk to animals.

Pay attention here.  We have humans (who talk), cars (where at least one can talk), and animals (where at least two can talk).  Can the humans understand the animals?  Why can't birds talk?  HOW DOES THIS UNIVERSE WORK?

Dottie recruits Radar to look for her boyfriend, Otto, but Dottie's apparently also an attempt to cash in on Finding Nemo because she's annoyingly dense as Ellen Degeneres was endearingly clueless.

Back at the campsite, Uncle Richard shows up with the groceries he was sent to retrieve (bringing them back in banana boxes, of all things), and is then sent off to throw away some garbage while Elizabeth goes in to feed the newly captive animals that are being kept in kennels around the motor home.

Elizabeth and her mother start trying to capture the eagle, and after almost falling off the mountain a few times, they do manage to catch the giant bird, but the egg goes over the edge of a cliff.

Radar comes along the climbing rope, and convinces Dottie to scale up the mountain to have a look and make sure everything is okay with the eagle (strange, they didn't feel the need to put roads up the intelligent talking car).  Dottie finds a box of matches that fell out of the mother's pocket (because that's something you take on an eagle-napping adventure), and then spots the egg perched precariously on a ledge.  Through a small misadventure that actually made me rather angry at how physics was violated, she winds up splashing gently into a pond with the egg.  Radar tries to talk Dottie into giving up the egg, but Dottie actually has a rather intelligent (for a dumb animal) argument about why it's a good time to eat it now.  "Because if the mother doesn't keep it warm," she states, and then draws her finger across her neck with a "hgggkt" sound.

Elizabeth tries to talk her mother into leaving, but her mother's a bad cartoon villain, so she's not going to stop until she apparently catches and kills every living creature in the park, and then THE WORL- ahem.  Anyway, she wants to kill all the animals.

Back at Dottie and Radar, I find myself becoming increasingly apathetic towards the fate of this park.  Dottie winds up lighting her tail on fire, and in a moment that I have to remind myself someone was actually paid to write, Radar puts it out by driving over Dottie's tail.  There is a large body of water not five feet from Dottie, but a ton of metal pressing down on a rubber tire is clearly the best way to put the fire out.

Radar realizes that people must have been up at the eagle nest, and from there he concludes that someone stole the eagle.  He heads off to notify the other police (because it's not like he has an operational radio built into him or anything), but realizes they need to do something with the egg.  Dottie sets it inside the Princess' hat (which was lost earlier), and they put it under Radar's hood (because I guess his engine is in the back?) to keep it warm.

Radar then says it's a lot like having a baby in his tummy, and I need to go lie down for a bit and hold my head, because dear sweet lord that really happened.

Okay, I'm back, what did I miss?

Actual dialogue: "Good job, Dottie!  The matches you used to light the fire came from the same box you just found!  It's a 100% match!"  
Okay, no.  No.  Nonononononononono.

Those are clearly two different boxes of matches.  The ones she started a fire with earlier came from an IDENTICAL box like the one she just found, but no.  That is clearly not the "same box."  They are different boxes.  Stop lying, movie!  STOP YOUR LIES.

The movie then attempts to explain to kids what an animal "being stuffed" is.  Apparently, it's "filling your head with cotton and then making you pose dead for the rest of your life!"

I'm- I'm not sure I can do this.  I'm not even halfway through the movie yet, and it's clearly trying to insult my intelligence and the intelligence of everybody watching it.

The motor home drives past, and Radar manages to put two and two together, but the high speed chase is undone by the fact that apparently RADAR'S HOOD DOESN'T LATCH, and the egg pops out.

They get the egg back (meaning the previous scene was completely pointless), but it is then immediately lost again by Dottie before being recovered once more (meaning, again, the scene was entirely pointless), but then it hatches, and this emerges.

As Dottie puts it, "It's so scruffy!  Only a mother could love a thing like that."

The baby immediately identifies the talking car as its mother (Dottie: "You better tell it you're its father, or it'll really be confused."  ...what?), and we get a truly horrifying scene where a car and a visibly deformed mix of Stimpson J Cat and the back end of Catdog smacked with the ugly stick a few times try to figure out what baby birds eat.  Then the baby chick has a nightmare.  Then it wants to play.  Then- you know what, let's just skip ahead a ways, okay?

There's a few scenes where Radar is driving the eagle back and forth to a gas station to buy it hot dogs to eat, and the guy working there doesn't even bat an eye at the fact an intelligent car is asking for consumable animal flesh.  With toppings.

We get more mind-bogglingly horrible "touching" scenes where a car plays mother to a baby bird.  I know the "unlikely parent finds its life changed by a baby" trope has been done a million times before, and can be a pretty powerful storytelling tool.  Ma and Pa Kent raising a lost Kryptonian baby, a rat raising four pizza-loving turtles, it can and has been done well before now.  But this is just...bad.

The police decide to check in on Radar and the eagle, to make sure everything is okay (so wait, they entrusted a car to watch over a park alone?  How can he arrest anybody?  Or save anybody?), so Radar tries to quickly teach a day old baby chick how to fly to no avail (maybe I'm just tired, but I chuckled when he tried to explain flight using airplane diagrams).  Fortunately, because humans in animated moves are always incredibly dumb, the cops are fooled by Dottie in the nest with feathers stuck to her,

Radar does eventually confide in Uncle Richard,  Uncle Richard's response is "gee, we should probably find out who captured the baby eagle's mother" but Radar flips out, insisting that he (she? I don't even know) is the baby eagle's mother now.  I've never seen a car have a psychotic break before, but I suspect this is what happens.

The baby eagle ("Scruffy") starts getting fat from overeating, but Radar comes up with an idea on how to whip the little bird into shape: he makes it run to the gas station for more sausages.  Because nobody's EVER going to comment on "that car following a rare baby bird down main street for pork products."

Radar eventually figures out that he makes an unfit parent for a bird since he can't fly, and he confesses that he isn't Scruffy's mother.  Scruffy doesn't take it well, and tries to prove that Radar is his mother by... jumping off a cliff?  Well, apparently he's trying to fly, thus "proving" that Radar is his real mother, but it doesn't go well.  Fortunately, Elizabeth spots the falling bird and is able to save it with a net, but her mother immediately grabs it and they take off for the motor home.

Radar, having seen who saved the bird and as eternally grateful before he realized they were driving away, realizes "those women are the ones stealing the animals!  I knew it!"


Radar starts chasing them, but they're able to ditch him by apparently driving faster than a police car and taking off down a side dirt path.  Radar starts trying to track them down, and we get the brilliant line "people who hide always have something to hide."

A picture speaks a thousand words, and all of those words are "huh?"
Radar finally catches up to the mother, just to find her ... doing ... something with the chief in the bushes (....ewwwwww).  Radar makes his accusation that she has the baby eagle in her camper, but she simply states "oh, it's gone, vanished" and the chief chastises Radar for attempting to arrest someone without proof. know, proof like "I saw her do it" or something.  I mean, come on, Radar, think!

Radar does have the earlier recorded evidence, though, so he makes his case for why it was the woman and her daughter, an- wait, where is the daughter?  Well, it turns out she's in another set of bushes with Uncle Richard!

Clearly not up to anything suspicious if her glasses are askew and his hair's mussed up an-

This isn't a kids movie, it's "My First Orgy."

The chief, under the seductive spell of a large fake German woman in a track suit (ewwwwwwwww ...not to women in track suits, but to THIS woman in a track suit), fires Radar, and while Uncle Richard is on Radar's side at first, when Radar implies (read: outright states) that Elizabeth is in on it, too, Uncle Richard, um, well, he kinda boards up the park entrance with Radar still inside.

Uncle Richard starts taking out the town, but Radar knows the two thieves are still in the park, so he hunts them down with (sigh) the help of Dottie.

Inside the camper, the mother eagle starts to realize that her baby is also in a cage.  Outside, Radar tries to instruct Dottie in how to save Scruffy by, and I'm not making this up, "bite the mother, make some chaos so Scruffy can escape."  Way to sacrifice your friend, Radar.

Uncle Richard shows up with a bouquet of roses for Elizabeth, and Radar assumes it's because his plan is to infiltrate the camper (though it appears he didn't really think that far ahead),   Then again, Uncle Richard doesn't think out much, considering his attempt to woo a woman is to say: "Me.  And you.  Us!  There, I said it!"

Their cover gets blown when Elizabeth decides she doesn't want to be part of her mother's "kill all the animals" lifestyle any more, but the mother traps Elizabeth in the camper and drives off.  Richard, Radar, and (sigh) Dottie take off in pursuit.  Uncle Richard attempts to call in backup, but the Chief Constable's response to hearing "those women" being accused again is, I kid you not, to stick his fingers in his ears and spin in his chair, going "La la la la la."

Fortunately, a minute later he concludes "someone must have STOLEN the motor home!" and decides to come out after all, but man.  This movie, you guys.  Mr. Nanny wasn't this bad, you guys.

Dottie manages to get in, but gets herself captured by the mother (the daughter takes over driving momentarily despite being INSISTENT that they turn themselves in just a moment before),   They approach a roadblock set up by the Chief Constable, but while the mother is prepared to drive through it and kill the officer, Radar manages to knock a vehicle that weighs many more times than him aside, causing it to flip and probably killing everybody inside since I don't think seat belts were ever shown to be a priority.

The mother tries to get Elizabeth to run with her, but they're taken in by the police (latest creepy phrase, "I want to be arrested. you."  "I...I don't think I'm capable of arresting you."  "I hope you have handcuffs..."), but not before the mother knees the Chief Constable in the crotch and makes a break for it.

Which is when Dottie whistles and sics the wildlife on her, undoubtedly mauling her beyond recognition.

But what about the eagles?  Surely we're going to get a touching mother and child reunion, aren't w-

Well, that's a dark way to end a movie.  Who knew Norway was so morbid and perverse?

Well, let's get to it.

The Go- nah, just kidding.

The movie doesn't really end there, of course.  After a fake-out that's nowhere on par as Disney did in the last Tinkerbell movie, the mother wakes up, and the two are reunited with each other.  But first there's a moment where the baby bird doesn't want to go back to the mother bird, and Radar confesses how happy he was to "be a mommy."  But once Scruffy realizes the "new mommy" will better be able to teach him how to fly, he goes back happily.  Cut to a short time later, and Scruffy (now "Alfie" I guess) is flying with his mother, and the park is reopened.

Then it ends.


The Good:

Well, while there's some technical hiccups and weird character design choices, the animation is actually pretty solid.  Scruffy is well-animated, and while talking cars are never NOT creepy and Dottie looks like someone crossbred Mr. Jinx and a weasel, there's a lot of good stuff.  Human reaction is appropriately exaggurated for a children's show, the environments are actually really pretty, and the buildings carry a distinctive style to them that works when you consider what Norway is like (lots of slanted roofs, for example, for easy snow removal).

The voice acting is pretty good in several areas, too.  I think the actors knew they were getting a terrible script, and they just had fun with it.  The person who does Scruffy just doesn't seem to care how ridiculous her lines are, and while I cringe to hear the dialogue between Uncle Richard and Elizabeth in this film, her attraction to him felt rather real in how she talked, and he was just lovably goofy.

The Bad:

Man.  Everything else.  The story was slow and plodding with lots of unnecessary scenes.  The script-writing was horrendous, with apparently nobody WATCHING the movie while trying to figure out what the Norwegian phrase actually translated to in English.  There are some things that just don't translate over, which is common in a lot of translated works, and while I hear a lot of seemingly pointlessly repeated lines in Japanese works, I was rather surprised to hear it here ("There's something just as special as that!"  "Oh?  There's something just as special?").

I get that not every kids movie needs to be high-brow deep intellectual thought (god knows Unico wasn't but I still loved it), but between bad writing, bad editing, and bad reading, there are moments that even a child would go "no, that's wrong."  Logic takes a back seat to convenience, and characters who are meant to be goofy and wacky are just obnoxious.

Oh, and then let's discuss the creepy emotional attachments.  A car demanding to be "mommy" to a bird.  A cop making out with someone in the bushes just feet away from his superior and her mother.  Otter relationship abuse.  The list goes on and on.


I could probably cut 60 minutes out of the run time of this and turn it into a pretty decent cartoon episode.  But that's 60 minutes of drudgery and slow moving plot and nonsense dialogue that just sucks any possible enjoyment out of watching this.

Is it one of the most disturbing films I've ever seen?  Well, the car insisting it can be "mommy" to a bird probably ranks up there, but as a whole, it's terrible, but not the most disturbing thing I've ever seen.

That would probably still be this, this, or this.

This will be in my bottom eleven of the year, though.

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