In this day and age, celebrity voices are almost impossible to avoid in animated movies. Marketers make the poor assumption that slabbing on a celebrity cast will somehow make the movie a hit. Oh so wrong. Perfect recent example is 2009's Up. Seniored Ed Asner is indeed a celebrity, but not a typical Hollywood celebrity. Asner alone almost carried the entire movie. It's a little sad that with all the great voice actors out there, by default, they're toppled by Hollywood celebrities :( Someone hand me a Kleenex. Aaaanyhow, let's rank this year's slate of animated movies and see if the cast choices match the story and characters.
My Dog Tulip
A simple story about a man and his relationship with his German shepherd, here we have Christopher Plummer in the title role. Having successfully played the "villain" in 2009's Up, albeit his role overshadowed by Ed Asner's fantastic performance, Plummer's long career can guaranteed and heartfelt performance in this movie. Isabella Rossellini is also a nice edition to the cast with her elegantly sexy British and slight European accent.
Alpha and Omega
Here we have a story about two wolves, Kate and Humphrey who couldn't be more opposite to each other. By when they are captured by park rangers, they see past their differences and fall in love. Wooooow, talk about an original romantic comedy plot. Kind of makes Balto's hero story look like Oscar material. Okay, so the story is typical but can still be enjoyable if the acting and chemistry between the leads is hot. Justin Long tackles Humphrey whose career I've followed all the way back from his awkward nerdy role in Ed all the way to Accepted and Live Free Or Die Hard. His nerdy roles have tended to gain more and more confidence and light heartedness like in those Apple ads. Humphrey is supposed to be a fun loving wolf so I can see how Long could fit the role, but his voice doesn't seem to have the bravado to pull off a wolf. Opposite Long is Heroes Hayden Panettiere who I must "forum bash" as being a terrible actor. Her Claire character is so 1-dimensional and she does little to help that with her acting. I honestly don't think she has the acting chops to pull off a sassy Kate. Also part of the cast are Christina Ricci (nothing really exciting) and Dennis Hopper (presumably in a "villain role".
|We have an interesting plot here where a cat named Rover who has been raised in a city of dogs heads to his hometown of cats to find out who he is. Sean Astin has that innocent yet strong and confident voice which seems fitting for a lead character finding his way in life. Elisha Cuthbert plays Rover's love interest Cleo, in what would seem to fit her sultry seductive voice. Rounding off the main cast Stanley Tucci, whose refined and sophisticated voice fits the villain Simon character perfectly and Alan Cumming who plays Rover's guide (whose voice could go either way depending on what accent he uses).|
Shrek Forever After
Talk about milking a franchise for all it's worth. Ignoring the fact that Shrek The Third was absolute dribble and I'm still amazed how Shrek 2 made over $400 million domestic beating out Finding Nemo to become the top grossing animated movie, here we somehow have a fourth installment. After ending the last movie with a happily ever after closing, the new story seems a little backwards. Shrek is tricked to sign something from Rumpelstiltskin which in turn throws Shrek into an alternate reality where none of the main characters know him. The same cast returns (Mike Meyers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and Antonio Banderas) and now the chemistry between the characters is that they'll all be meeting Shrek for the first time. Four words, been there, done that. If it weren't for Donkey and Puss, this would've been lower.
Hoodwinked 2: Hood VS Evil
|The first Hoodwinked was a pleasant surprise and a sequel was announced right after. It had a great random cast which brought every character to life. However with a release date now undetermined and two of the original main actors replaced, there's a little worry in the air. Anne Hathaway's Red Puckett character has now been replaced by uugh ... Hayden Panettiere ... again on this list. And Martin Short is an odd replacement for Jim Belushi's strong Kirk Kirkendall woodsman character. Glenn Close and Patrick Warburton return as Granny and Wolf. Can't take anything away from those quality actors. The poor choice of replacements is made up for with the additional casting of Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, David Ogden Stiers and Bill Murray.|
Disney's second attempt at a 2D animation comeback after The Princess and the Frog. Sticking to the fairytale formula, they take on the story of Rapunzel, twisting it in a way only Disney can. Unlike her fellow failed singer-turned-actress Jessica Simpson, Mandy Moore has shown talent and plays the "girl power" Rapunzel here. Taking on her hero is Chuck's Zachary Levi who I can imagine will play a clumsy doofusy character, which of course will fit him perfectly. Both actors will bring a nice comedic chemistry I'm sure. Disney regulars Jim Cummings and John Goodman are reassurring additions to the cast.
Toy Story 3
Pixar's first feature film Toy Story put them on the map as probably the greatest animated storyteller's for years to come. After a few years the toys are back for thirds, this time finding themselves given away and donated to a kindergarden amongst many other toys. While I preferred the rumored storyline of Buzz Lightyear being recalled back to Taiwan, this flawless cast is strong enough to carry any story. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen jump back into Woody and Buzz and I couldn't imagine anyone else playing them. The supporting cast with John Ratzenberger as Hamm, Wallace Shawn as Rex and Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head is also irreplacable. Timothy Dalton does join the cast as Mr. Pricklepants, though with his cuteness begs us to wonder who the atagonist will be.
Can't go a year without a superhero movie. We have a slightly different formular here where super villain MegaMind defeats super hero Metro Man and later becomes bored without a rival. So he creates his own rival who instead of becoming a hero, becomes a villain too. A couple of big names in Brad Pitt taking on Metro Man (whose strong deep voice fit a super hero perfectly) and Will Ferrell as MegaMind (whose unrestrained comedic roles and often broody voice make an interesting villain). Jonah Hill's rambling jerkish roles allow him to take on the rival creation pretty easily and having Tina Fey on the cast list only adds more credibility.
How To Train Your Dragon
Any movie with a dragon in it intrigues me. I'm one of those generic people who thinks dragons are uber cool. Anyway, the story here is we have a land of vikings, whose cultural purpose is to slay dragons. Then one of the village's kids befriends a dragon. Does Dragonheart ring a bell? Sounds very similar but I'm sure the story will be spun differently. The line up for the cast looks very fun. Typical nerd role actors Jay Baruchel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jonah Hill and America Ferrera play the kid roles. Baruchel has that mid-puberty voice breaking voice that perfectly fits the lead reluctant-to-be-a-viking role. Mintz-Plasse has a matching candy-filled mouth with a lipse voice that makes sense for him to play Baruchel's best friend. Hill joins his Superbad costar to don a douchebag role as the kid who hopes to be chief viking some day. And Ferrera has that Ugly Betty light masculine voice that fits in a world of viking to play the lead's love interest. To top it off, you have Gerald Butler who can a field day with a similar 300 role playing the viking chief, and Craig Ferguson playing a viking teacher with a role that sounds very similar to his dickhead office manager role in the Drew Carey Show.
Alongside MegaMind, we have another super villain focused movie. This one however intrigues me more. Gru is the world's #2 super villain, whose evil plans are always thwarted by #1 Vector. So the story still follows the rival formula but with just villains. So simple. I love it. Even better is the top comedy tiered cast. Gru is played in bungling form by Steve Carell, easy role thanks to the likes of Get Smart and the 40 Year Old Virgin. Vector is blessed to be played by one of my personal favorites, Jason Segal, whose goofy and slightly unstable roles in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and I Love You, Man make him match Carell's quirkiness. Rounding out the juggernaut comedy cast are greats Russell Brand, Will Arnett, Ken Jeong (who by the way I have not laughed at once ... ever), Danny McBride and Dave Foley. Julie Andrews tops off the cast with class.