Hoo Saw ‘The Owls of Ga’Hoole’? Two Cranky Guys!
Bruce Fretts: Today we saw Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole. This was the first Two Cranky Guys movie we’ve seen separately. There was only one other person in my theater—a mentally challenged kid who kept talking to me and laughing at inappropriate moments through the movie. It was almost like you were there.
Bret Watson: Thank you. I went with my wife, who is an animation fan. She liked it because it was not as bad as she’d expected. High praise indeed.
Fretts: The kid asked me if I was there with my children, and I said no. The ticket taker must’ve have thought I was a child molester. But taking kids to this movie seems like child abuse to me.
Watson: Or self-abuse.
Fretts: Who do you think this movie was meant for? It was too scary for kids and too silly for adults.
Watson: It was meant for the remainder bin. The premise was a rehash of every stupid war-of-two-worlds fantasy you’ve ever seen, with a pastiche of Saturday morning cartoon dialogue thrown in. It’s about two young owl brothers—one joins the owl version of the Nazi party, the other joins the righteous Guardians, the owl version of Hogwarts. Owlwarts?
Fretts: Those sound painful. Owlets are being kidnapped by the evil Pure Ones—no, not the Jonas Brothers—and enslaved to dig out magical pieces of metal from owl pellets that somehow are going to allow them to take over the world. I think they found this script in a pile of owl pellets too.
Watson: By owl pellets you mean owl vomit—regurgitated mouse bones and fur and some ridiculous magic metal that inexplicably becomes a weapon that we never understand.
Fretts: Yes, and there’s nothing like seeing owl vomit in 3D. The visuals just gave me a headache. The kid in front of me kept trying to reach out and grab the images. Again, just like you.
Watson: I do that only when watching Sofia Vergara.
Fretts: Me too. The kid also laughed at the trailer for Yogi Bear. So I think the producers have found their target demo.
Watson: Did you get the Smurfs trailer too? Why does Hollywood think parents want to relive the crappy cartoons of their childhood?
Fretts: Even the kid didn’t laugh at that one.
Watson: But you did? You always had a thing for Smurfette.
Fretts: I laughed at it, not with it. I felt bad for the animators. They obviously worked hard, and the detail was great. But if I put all that effort into it and the end result was this wet sack of bird crap, I’d be pissed.
Watson: But the owls were so realistic that their faces were about as expressive as hubcaps. How do you express fear, sadness and laughter with a beak? As in so many Hollywood movies, it seemed as if the studio spent $1 million on visuals for every 10 cents spent on script.
Fretts: I wouldn’t have paid 10 cents for the whole script. And I resent having to pay extra for the 3D. That’s such a racket. I usually go out of my way to see 2D versions if there’s an option.
Watson: That’s what I would recommend. My experience is that I quickly become accustomed to the 3D, and then it’s back to: Is the script any good? And these characters weren’t in 3D. They were one-dimensional.
Fretts: Why did they all have the-dingo-ate-my-baby Aussie accents? I kept waiting for one to channel Crocodile Dundee: “That’s not a talon. That‘s a talon!”
Watson: The actors were trying so hard to create quirky Dickensian characters out of little scraps of screen time. The movie is so frenetic that nothing is ever set up properly—no time to develop characters you care about, plot twists, motivations…
Fretts: That’s one of my problems with animated movies lately. It seems like every plot, even in Pixar movies like Toy Story 3 and Up, is mostly just one long chase scene. It’s like they’re afraid they’ll lose kids’ attention if they stop being frenetic. It’s ADD in 3D.
Watson: I think this movie was edited on a Cuisinart. The action sequences were nearly incoherent.
Fretts: The director, Zack Snyder, made 300 and Watchmen, and half the time it seemed like he was trying to make a serious action movie, only with owls. Then the other half of the time, they’d throw in cute, wacky characters, like they remembered, “Oh yeah, we need these for the Burger King Kids Meal toys.”
Watson: I often felt there was a disconnect between the hyperrealistic animation and the fantasy storyline. Sometimes the camera would pull back for a medium shot and it would just be two “real” owls on a ledge, but with helmets on, and I’d think, I’m watching the dumbest episode of Nature ever.
Fretts: I can kind of see what they were trying to do—tap into the Harry Potter crowd. Your wife’s a Potter fan—there’s an owl in those movies, right?
Watson: Yes, Hedwig, a very minor character. My wife is a rabid Potter fan and likes animation and fantasy, but this left her cold. Much as I do. (Beat you to it.)
Fretts: Did you get a handout from the National Wildlife Federation with fun facts about owls? I’d be furious if my donation were used to support this turkey. I did learn that owls can only turn their heads three-quarters of the way around. I wish I’d been able to do that so I wouldn’t have had to see this movie.
Watson: All I got was plastic glasses that were too small for my fat head, so it was like watching a movie inside a vise.
Fretts: Did you see the Road Runner cartoon before the movie? As a Looney Tunes fanatic, how do you rate it? It was so short, it barely made an impression.
Watson: It was unusual in that it was just one set-up—the Coyote had just one Acme invention to try. The short was well-executed but not particularly fresh. Maybe that cartoon explains why I kept waiting for more famous, interesting owls to show up: the Wise Potato Chip Owl, the owl that ate the Toosie Pop, Owl Jolson from the early Warner Bros. cartoon “I Love to Singa”…
Fretts: See, I knew you were a fanatic. I remember that Looney Tunes leather jacket you used to wear to the office when we worked together at Entertainment Weekly. Wasn’t that when you were the magazine’s fashion editor, too?
Watson: Um…I was wearing the Bugs Bunny bomber jacket before there was a Warner Bros. store in every mall in America and they shilled the characters to death. They killed the golden goose. Or duck.
Fretts: Thufferin’ Thuccotash! You were Looney before Looney was cool.
Watson: Did you find anything funny in Guardians? They certainly tried. Interesting thing about great adventure movies: lots of humor. Wizard of Oz has lots of delightful, funny moments for a kid. This movie had owl pellets.
Fretts: I didn’t crack a smile once. What did you think of the voices? Helen Mirren plays a ruthless owl leader whose mate is even more powerful: Hoo-llary Clinton. The rest of the cast seemed like the usual Aussie suspects: Geoffrey Rush, Hugo Weaving, Anthony LaPaglia. Everybody but Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman.
Watson: They all gave very hammy performances with weak material. The lead owl was particularly bland. Often I couldn’t tell the two warring brothers apart. I am no bird watcher.
Fretts: I was also annoyed by the soundtrack. They kept playing that random pop song. Then I checked the credits at the end and got it: It’s by that band who did that irritating song “Fireflies”: Owl City.
Fretts: That’s the kind of thuddingly literal obviousness we’re dealing with here.
Watson: Why not “Owl Be Seeing You”?
Fretts: Or “Owl Take Manhattan”? I give this movie Two Birds Up, if you know what I mean. How about you?
Watson: Sure, I’ll flip this one the bird.
Fretts: Bird is the word.
Watson: Our job here is to be the guardians against any chance of a sequel.
Fretts: It seemed like they were setting one up, but I doubt that’ll happen. The opening weekend box-office was okay, but I bet word of mouth will kill this one in the nest. Take it from us: It’s for the birds!
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