Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card: July 15, 2011

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr dances with joy because it’s the only time you can dress up in flowing robes and head to the cineplex to see a movie based on an alleged children’s book and not get arrested. After cinching his wizarding cloak around his waist with his Gryffindor scarf, he sails off to check out Winnie the Pooh. Then, from the dysfunctional head cases in the Hundred Acre Wood, Kevin sneaks into the screening room next door to watch Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II only to discover he doesn’t have his 3D glasses. Curses!

Want to hear what Kevin has to say on the Fat Guys at the Movies podcast? Click here to listen as Grae Drake from the Popcorn Mafia joins him in the Magical Studio in the Sky to compare patronuses.

Studio: Warner Bros.

Rated: PG-13 some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Gary Oldman and Ralph Fiennes

Directed by: David Yates

What it’s about: After seven years at Hogwarts and ten years in our movie houses, the Harry Potter saga comes to an end with the last part of J.K. Rowling’s seventh book. The movie hits the ground running with the third act of the two-part movie, following Harry and his friends as they try to track down the last of the horcruxes while Lord Voldemort is hunting the young wizard for a final battle.

What I liked: I have enjoyed all the Harry Potter films over the past ten years… even the soft first installment and the weak fifth installment. Even the least of the films is enjoyable and opens the viewer to a larger universe.

Like the kids who started out so tiny and innocent in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the film series itself has matured. What Alfonso Cuarón started with the third film – namely the darker tone and more grim movie elements – has developed fully to make this a very grown up and very powerful film.

Director David Yates does not lead the audience along, reminding them about all the call-backs to previous films. Instead, he invites them for a ride which begins as the kids decide to break into Gringott Bank and ends with the climax of the series itself. Taken alone, this film would be impossible to follow (so if this is your first foray into the Harry Potter universe, you might want to start a few movies back), but as the final chapter in a franchise, it’s fantastic.

Deathly Hallows: Part II hits all the beats it needs to. It’s a strikingly faithful adaptation of the last part of the book, and it stays true to most of the series that had already been established. There are moments that are going to make the true fans cry, and there are moments that will make the casual fans cheer. In the end, it’s a great adaptation and leaves the entire saga on a powerful note. The entire franchise of Harry Potter is brought to a close here, and it is done elegantly and honorably.

Finally, the 3D conversion technology is continuing to make leaps and bounds. Yates uses it as a tool to add depth to the film and enhance the audience experience. Assuming you see it in a theater that has its projectors properly calibrated, it looks really good. Of course, we’ve seen seven films in 2D, so I can’t say it’s entirely worth the higher ticket price.

What I didn’t: There’s really nothing that I disliked about this movie. So rather than throw out a criticism here, let’s throw out a caution. If you think the last several movies were dark and potentially scary, you’ll want to be careful with this installment. Remember that this story is about a mass-murdering wizard who is targeting a teenager at a boarding school. This is probably one of the most overtly violent of the Harry Potter films, so it’s not going to be for the youngest children. Fortunately you have an alternative for them this weekend.

Who is gonna like this movie: Potter-heads and anyone who enjoyed any of the Harry Potter films, even just a little bit.

Grade: A

Studio: Disney

Rated: G

Starring: John Cleese, Jim Cummings, Craig Ferguson, Tom Kenny and Travis Oates

Directed by: Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall

What it’s about: Christopher Robin’s stuffed animals have a brand new adventure in the Hundred Acre Wood. Eeyore has lost his tail, and it’s up to Pooh and his friends to find a new one.

What I liked: I have a special place in my heart for Winnie the Pooh, not just as a parent but also as a former kid who remembers watching the short films when I was younger. It’s not that Winnie the Pooh has been absent from our lives in the past decade or so. There have been the feature films The Tigger Movie, Piglet’s Big Movie and Pooh’s Heffalump Movie, and all of these are cute in their own right. However, this new Winnie the Pooh taps into the nostalgia of the old short films from the 60s through the 80s.

Winnie the Pooh is extremely charming, bringing back the animation style it originally had as well as the simplicity of the story. Where the aforementioned other films worked too hard to tell a bigger story, this movie went back to its roots.

The characters are well balanced, which can often be a problem for this series. There’s just the right mix of innocence and neuroses to keep things fun without making them irritating. And considering the recent push to have all things animated be done with CGI, it’s refreshing to watch a good, old fashioned 2D-style film in the theater again.

Oh, and the movie is only 63 minutes long, so that’s a plus if you’ve got young kids in tow. You’ll actually spend a few more minutes in the theater, though, because there’s a new cartoon at the head of the film called “The Ballad of Nessie,” and it’s equally as charming as this return to the Hundred Acre Wood.

What I didn’t: My only complaint about Winnie the Pooh was there were moments when it felt like the filmmakers were trying to cram just a little too much into the film. In particular, there are several musical numbers, some of which seem a bit forced. Still, with a film as short and sweet as this, those moments pass by quickly, and you can get back to the charming story laid before you.

Who is gonna like this movie: Adult kids with young kids.

Grade: A-

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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