|Roadside Romeo and El Lince Perdido
reviewed by Dronon
|Roadside Romeo||El Lince Perdido|
Hindi w/ English subtitles
|Cast:||(voices of) Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Jaaved Jaffrey|
|Crew:||Jugal Hansraj (director); Aditya Chopra, Yash Chopra, Walt Disney International India (producers); Arif Ahmed (editor); Salim-Sulaiman (score) and Jaideep Sahni (lyrics)|
Yash Raj Films and Walt Disney Pictures (23 Oct, 2008), 93 minutes
One of the things that makes furry fandom distinct from other fandoms is how its had to create its own merchandise. There simply isnt much mainstream stuff for sale with anthropomorphic content, and its doubly difficult if youre a fan of less-popular species. Put it this way: When was the last time you saw something for sale with an okapi in it?
A side-effect of this kind of shortage is that furry fans often overlook quality because theres little else available. Sometimes however, the bar is lowered so far that people will praise just about anything, which says more about the obsessions and desperations of the consumer than the merchandise itself. I find that people outside the fandom tend to review anthropomorphic material much more critically and objectively, when theyre aware of it at all.
So when films like Roadside Romeo are made, more than anything else its the feeling of disappointment thats the most painful. We see the trailers and our interest is piqued. Something anthropomorphic is on its way! The film comes out, and the obsessive-compulsives amongst us (um, like me) wait with baited breath for the DVD release. Our expectations are high, and then sometimes its bad.
Now, it depresses me write a negative review. Some people might defend the movie, but trust me, its B-A-D with a capital awfuland yet, still not bad enough to be funny. I understand the high sense of hope, the unwillingness to criticize others, and that to speak ill of such films is to reject something from our already small, limited market. Yet we have to have standards, regardless of bias. (If you want to see bias in action, try criticizing Associated Student Bodies in front of a die-hard fan.) And its certainly not the first time Ive been let down. The same thing happened with Felidae, and I couldnt make it past the first ten minutes of Bakshis Fritz the Cat.
Roadside Romeo is so bad I dont even know where to begin. You could make a drinking game out of it: Take a drink each time someone farts, burps, spits, gets hit by bird poop, or uses their own ear wax for something. Thats 15 drinks. If you took a drink every time someone spoke in bad English instead of Hindi, youd be unconscious before it was halfway through which might actually be preferable.
But I have to begin somewhere, so: Roadside Romeo is a full-length animated CGI movie from India that came out in 2008, distributed by Yash Raj Films (a major studio) and Disney. Yes, Disney meets Bollywood. I dont know what Disneys role waswas it financial, a distribution deal, animation training, or did they influence the script? The credits are all Indian names.
In India, the term Roadside Romeo is slang for young men hanging around on the street trying to pick up women. In the film, Romeo is a rich familys dog, spoiled and pampered with a bit of an ego, who finds himself kicked out into the dirty back alleys of Mumbai, utterly lacking in survival skills. Using his smarts, he joins a gang and convinces them to open a salon for their fellow dogs. Romeos talents are fur styling, dancing, flirting, quick thinking, and convincing others he can teach them how to be cool. It helps that most of the other characters are idiots.
Problems develop when Romeos gang forgets to give protection money to the local thug, Charlie Anna. To make things worse, both Romeo and Charlie have fallen in love with Laila, a local dancer. The rest of the film basically consists of Romeo getting into deeper and deeper trouble as he talks himself out of one situation and into another, as he and Charlie vie for Lailas affection. Its all tremendously contrived and rather painful in its execution.
Released for the Diwali holiday in India, it flopped. Now, when Western audiences think of Bollywood, we tend to think cliché
but this film is cliché by Bollywood standards. Actually, thats an unfair comparison; North American and Bollywood audiences have different expectations. A friend of mine worked at an orphanage in India for nine months and told me of a 7-year-old who asked about North American films. Is there singing? No, not really, my friend said. Is there dancing? No, theres no dancing. The boy frowned heavily. Ohhh. Those are bad movies. The real problem is that without knowing much about Bollywood films, its difficult to put myself in the place of a typical Bollywood audience member. To understand their point of view, all I can do is read the opinions of other critics online, and most of them were similarly disappointed.
There are six song-and-dance numbers. Dance-wise, I cant help but think that Bollywood audiences were unimpressed when the computer made all the characters make the same moves. Theres a lot less to appreciate if you compare it to twenty real people dancing together, knowing theyve choreographed and practiced it to perfection. So really the only time the dancing shows any originality are the few moments when Romeo and Lailas dance motions play off each other. And that in turn isnt true dancing, its animators trying to replicate dancing.
The music is also a let-down. Most of the songs have a short phrase thats repeated to death, leaving almost no room for any other lyrics. The melodies and beats under the words, on the other hand, are passable if you can stand the repetitious singing. In my opinion the best piece in the film is Rooftop romance, because its largely an instrumental. The worst two are Apni dumm bhi oonchi ho (the salon song), and Cool cool, three minutes of pain if you watch it with the visuals. Even the incidental music during the movie becomes annoying, because background singers interject Romeo, Romeo! at every possible moment. (Take a drink.)
All the characters in the film are shallow, two-dimensional, and undergo little change. It doesnt quite feel like Romeo gains a sense of humility at the end, nor that Charlie abandons being a thug. Laila is simply a manipulative tease; she starts off by talking Romeo into dancing on stage with her, which (thanks to unwanted suitor Charlie) is basically a death sentence. Charlie is a bossy, violent, ugly, overweight, flatulent, disgusting boor. His sidekick Chainu is annoying and gross in his own right, and is never funny, and the same goes for the cutesy mouse that follows the protagonists everywhere. In terms of character design, Romeo and Laila are fine, although Id say Romeo is the better of the two. Lailas head is a little big for her body, her eyes defy the lighting, and she shouldnt wear lipstick. Also, after Romeo styles her hair, her ears are never seen again.
Charlies design is uglier than it has to be; at first I wasnt even sure what species he was. (I think hes supposed to be a bulldog, only without the jowls.) The rest of Romeos gang look decent enough. As for the other background street dogssomeone clearly didnt know how to make good character designs. Theyre all
uuuughh. And the models are used over and over again: You see the same dogs everywherethe worst case being Charlies three lasso-throwing henchwomen, who are identical except for the color of their headbands.
Exactly who the target audience for this film is, I dont know. Charlie is a genuinely intimidating if idiotic character, and most critics I saw online thought he was a bit too harsh for small kids. Meanwhile, the film is peppered with in-jokes to other Bollywood movies, something kids would completely miss, yet at the same time the plot is simply too stupid for adults. Even the pop-culture references are lame. Remember when the first Shrek movie did a parody of The Matrixs freeze-in-midair jump, rotating-camera thing? And it was funny? And then it stopped being funny when other films started to copy the same joke? Well hey, in Roadside Romeo they do it twice. Cause theres nothing funnier like being nine years too late.
Without understanding Hindi, its hard to evaluate the voice acting. Like Hollywood, they hired screen actors instead of voice actors. Most of the online critics seem to agree that Javed Jaffrey did a really amazing job as Charlie, and I have to concur he was strong and scary in a very effective way. One person said his characters south Indian accent was difficult to understand, but I have no way of knowing if thats true. Saif Ali Khan doing Romeos voice was okay, although sometimes it sounded like he was overdoing it, and youll quickly tire of him saying things like Dude!. However, Ill make you cool! is his most annoyingly-delivered line. Everyone elses dialogue worked well enough, no complaints there.
Theres actually a good bit of English in the film. Not enough to follow along, but enough to understand the mood and emphasis of the moment. To some, it might be a little distracting, and theres a lot of deliberately-broken Englishboth Charlie and one of Romeos gang talk this way, and Charlie constantly mispronounces Romeos name. (Take a drink.) Another dog in Romeos gang mostly speaks lines from other Bollywood films, which doesnt help western audiences at all. The English subtitles on the official DVD are awful. Badly timed, badly written, full of spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors. Theres a corrected subtitle file floating around online.
Animation-wise, Ive never been enough of an expert to evaluate things like movement very well. Sometimes characters seem to lack weight, and they switch occasionally between two legs and four legs; it was a bit jarring at first and then I got used to it. Some of the friends I tortured with this film said they felt there was a bit of a disconnect between the legs and torsos when the dogs were walking upright. The CGI backgrounds and settings work well.
The animation quality is certainly good enough. Theres still room for improvement, but nothings horrendous. Its nice to see that along with Over the Hedge (2006), with enough of a budget, computer animation has progressed far enough to create realistic fur textures. Compare this to Monsters, Inc. in 2001, where Sulley was usually the only furry thing on the screen because of all the computer rendering time needed to pull it off.
So is there anything else good in the film? Yes, random bits and pieces here and there are kinda cute, like the idea behind the howling contest. The protagonists character designs are good even if everyone elses are bad, and facial expressions and body language are done effectively. The animation, backgrounds and voice acting are passable. I liked the fact that Mini, in Romeos gang, is inexplicably a cat who really wants to be a dog. But its all sunk and destroyed by the far-too-stupid plot, the jokes and sidekicks that are supposed to be funny but arent, the farting humor, repetitive songs and mountains of clichés.
If you still want to watch this film, especially for the bits where Romeo and Laila flirt with each other, (a) its not worth it, and (b) you need to develop better motivations for watching animation. Roadside Romeo has been file-shared online, but there are several less-than-stellar copies. Ideally it should be about 92 minutes long (87 without the credits), and have a really wide screen ratio, Im talkin 2.3:1 here. And youll want to track down the corrected English subtitles. Otherwise, take a chance at buying a legit or pirated DVD online, or find a copy at an East Indian grocery store which will have crappy subtitles, if any. As a final warning, at one showing with my friends, they groaned and grimaced most of the time and only laughed once. Two of them found convenient excuses to leave a third of the way into it. The rest of us only survived by complaining as we watched. On the bright side, at least it didnt destroy any friendships.
|Roadside Romeo||El Lince Perdido|
Extinction is the least of his problems
|Title:||El Lince Perdido (The Missing Lynx)
Spanish w/ English subtitles and audio
|Screenplay:||Raul Garcia, Jose E. Machuca, Manuel Sicilia|
|Cast:||(voices of) David Robles, Abraham Aguilar, and Steven Hughes|
|Crew:||Raul Garcia, Manuel Sicilia (director); Marcelino Almansa, Juan Molina, Antonio Banderas (producers); Sergio De La Puente (score)|
Kandor Graphics and YaYa! Films, Spain (25 Dec, 2008), 96 minutes
El Lince Perdido (in English, The Missing Lynx) is a Spanish CGI film released for Christmas 2008 from an animation studio co-owned by Antonio Banderas. The DVD release includes an English dub as well as subtitles, or you can find it file-shared online. Its essentially an adventure-comedy for kids with occasional environmental themes.
The main character is Felix, an endangered Iberian lynx whos literally cursed with bad luck, staying in an animal shelter for his 40th time. Meanwhile, an eccentric billionaire named Noah hires a big-game hunter named Newmann to gather exotic animals for his menagerie. The animal shelter is attacked and Felixs girlfriend is taken by Newmann. Felix and friends flee the shelter thinking its a prison designed to keep them in, only to realize at the end of the attack that it was actually meant to protect them from poachers.
For most of the film after this point, Felix and company are on the run. Noahs true plans are eventually revealed, only to have his headquarters suddenly taken over by Newmann and filled with death traps. At the end, Felix confronts Newmann on Noahs yacht to rescue his girlfriend.
This film isnt all that good. Its not awful, but its dull. Extremely dull. My attention constantly wandered, and at several points I felt like falling asleep. Theres little in it to appeal to adults, and the biggest problem is its pacing: 75% of the film is taken up by the characters being chased, in hiding, or by over-extended action sequences. Its so constant that you get numb to it, as if a TV station was running a 24-hour marathon of The Fugitive episodes.
While ripping off the idea of Noahs Ark, the writers didnt quite grasp the idea of a story arc. A plot is supposed to build upon itself, reach certain heights of conflict and tension, and then work towards a resolution. The absence of this structure hit me when I was burning a DVD of it, and couldnt decide where to put in the chapter points. The entire story was so dramatically uniform and flat. There was no particular point I wanted to fast-forward to, no Oh, you gotta see this part! moment. I couldnt break the story down into its most significant beats, because there werent any; it was just one similar thing after another. With better writing and tighter editing, I think this film could have easily been cut in half and made into a nice 45-minute TV special.
The English voice acting is another major stumbling point. It really sounds second-rate, and judging by the credits only five or six people were involved. The accents are largely British, but theres something off about the cadences. Sure, they all have their momentsNewmann is probably the best of the bunchbut overall I found it really distracting instead of engaging.
The animation studio behind this film didnt have enough of a budget to render realistic CGI fur textures, so instead they relied on having very stylized body shapes and coloration. It works better with some characters than with others, and everyone looks somewhat plastic. (The lynxes, the hawk and Newmann have far better designs than the goat, the mole and Noah.) However, kudos should go out to them for daring to use less-cutesy species, like a chameleon.
The characters themselves are a pretty standard variety. Felixs friends are Betty (an adventurous goat), Astarte (a level-headed hawk), and Gus (a paranoid chameleon). Gus will be the make-or-break thing for most viewers. Hes yet another of those characters who are supposed to be funny and wacky for kids, only hes annoying and not funny. If you can stand Gus, you can stand the rest of the film.
Actually, thats not quite true: You have to stand Gus, and henchmen 13 and 14. These guys are absolute idiots, and they dont go away. I dont know why the producers thought theyd be funny. Even the other henchmen increasingly hate them over the course of the movie! This is where the films limited budget really starts to become obvious: All the henchmen wear identical gimp-like outfits with face-concealing masks, so that theyre easier to animate, except for the two bozos. Cause when the audience cant see your face, theres no need for facial expressions. Personally I found their masks mildly disturbing, especially at the end when 13 and 14 get a new job and dont take them off.
As for Felix, the main character, I liked him a lot. (Astarte would be my second-favorite.) His constant bad luck has imbued him with an odd sense of optimistic fatalism: Smiletomorrow could be worse! Hes not afraid to get things done, although occasionally he needs a little push to get going. The big disappointment was his girlfriend, Lynxette.
Yes, Lynxette. They couldnt be bothered to give her an actual name in English or SpanishI checked. She has only two functions: As the love interest who needs rescuing, and as someone Noah can blab plot exposition to. Thats it. Maybe she bites Newmann at some point, I forget. And its even more annoying because when we first meet her, shes obviously smart and quite capable of surviving on her own, only shes stuck playing the damsel-in-distress. What makes this film even weirder is while Lynxette is trapped in an old-fashioned role, Felixs companions Betty and Astarte are both female and not in old-fashioned roles.
The animation quality of El Lince Perdido is okay, neither terrible nor top-notch. Id probably rate it slightly below Hoodwinked, in that it needs to make its characters more alive and emotionally expressive. Frankly, Roadside Romeos animation was better in this category. But if you can get past the doofus characters, youll be pleased to find that El Lince Perdido treats its audience with a lot more respect. The one time it descends to a bird poop joke, it actually advances the story and isnt entirely gratuitous.
Would I recommend this film to others? Ennh not especially. Thats really how neutral I am about it, its so middle-of-the-road. If youd like to see a cartoony lynx, hawk or chameleon as an animated character, then sure, why not? And if you like villains, Newmanns a mean enough bad guy to be engaging. You get some light environmental commentary along the wayendangered species (wolves), a recycling dump, a wind farm. And I definitely enjoyed the ending, how Felix defeats Newmann: I just wish it hadnt taken so much time to actually get there. Noah delivers the lamest line of ending dialogueNow I see my plan didnt make much sense. There are also some obvious rip-offs/tributes to The Lion King worked into it, and dont stop at the 90-minute mark: Theres an extra clip thrown in partway through the credits.
|Roadside Romeo||El Lince Perdido|
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