Here's a quick run-down of the Christmas family movies without the usual swearing and cynicism.Well, without the usual swearing, at least. And for the first time this year no Paul Gadd jokes!
First the sequel, Madagascar : Escape 2 Africa (not the horribly Enoch Powell espousing Back to Africa that I first thought it was called). Anyone who saw the first film will know that while the lion, the zebra, the hippo and the giraffe get most of the screen time, its the penguins that get all the laughs. From the moment they kick the fishing boy off the Dreamworks logo the film belongs to the unfeathery birds. Sadly you have to sit through a tired retread of The Lion King while you wait for them to come back and liven things up. A healthy amount of cartoon violence makes the short running time pass even quicker and I'm a little sad as this may be the last time I ever hear Bernie Mac's voice in the cinema again. One last time... KICK IT!
Inkheart is a decent family vehicle with a premise that is a little too high on the shelf of concept. The idea is that Brendan Fraser can make anything he reads come to life. A bit like Stranger than Fiction for kids. Sadly the concept asks a few too many questions such as, Do the books have to be published? What would happen if he read the Bible, would the fictional character God appear? Why does Brendan Fraser have the same haircut in every film? Most of these questions are valiantly raised in the last act but all this does is make things more complicated. Bonus points for having hubbie/wife combo Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany as a hubbie/wife combo. One of the very few Hollywood couples that aren't attention seeking and smug. I like them both, I do.
Lastly its the new animation about mices not from the House of Mouse (thats what Disney is sometimes called kids), The Tale of Despereaux. Telling the story of a little heroic mouse with big ears that wants to bring soup and rats back to the people of his village which I'm guessing is somewhere in Franceland. I don't know why I'm guessing its set in France, maybe because all the human characters look French, maybe its the name Despereaux. Anyway, this is in equal parts charming and a little dull. But I am left with the funny feeling that Dustin Hoffman doesn't like his own face anymore as he seems to be hiding from my screen this year instead choosing to voice assorted animals. The 2009 campaign to bring back Dustin's face starts here.