Thursday, 9 April 2015

Movie Review: Tinker Bell And The Legend Of The Neverbeast (2015)

It’s times like this when I’m really glad that the critical bug bit me at such an early age, because seeing these kind of movies on my own is a risky enough prospect as is. If I were to still be watching these movies well into my 30’s or even my 20’s, chances are I’d end up on some sort of government watch list before too long. Then again, as a person who has a form of opinion on the Internet, I’m assuming that I’m on several of those already. I actually saw last year’s entry in the Tinker Bell franchise as well with The Pirate Fairy; despite my understandable apprehension about the thing, I thought it was a nice little movie, if pretty forgettable. Didn’t hurt that it blindsided me a bit as a prequel to the original Peter Pan, but nevertheless it was an okay watch. I can only hope that this one is on the same level: This is Tinker Bell And The Legend Of The Neverbeast.

The plot: Fawn (Ginnifer Goodwin) is a good-natured animal fairy who is just trying to do her best to help the other fairies in Pixie Hollow, even if her love for animals frequently gets in trouble. When a nearby comet awakens the mysterious creature The Neverbeast, Fawn wants to study it while Fairy Scout Nyx (Rosario Dawson) believes that it is an ancient threat to all of Pixie Hollow. With the help of her friends Silvermist (Lucy Liu), Iridessa (Raven-SymonĂ©), Rosetta (Megan Hilty), Vidia (Pamela Adlon) and of course Tinker Bell (Mae Whitman), she hopes to protect the Neverbeast and prove that it isn’t a threat.

The animation is done by DisneyToon Studios, one of the big cogs in Disney’s sequel-making machine that specializes in direct-to-DVD fare with only a select few films that have been released theatrically. Since those few include not only the last few Tinker Bell movies (and even then, only in select countries) but also the abominable black holes of time and effort that are the Planes movies, I don’t have the highest opinion of them already without even looking at the animation itself. Said animation, though, is TV-grade at best. Not to say that this necessarily a bad thing, as it’d be rather unfair to expect every piece of animation to be of equal quality, but at the end of the day, this is not of sufficient quality to be shown in a cinema, regardless of its limited release. Between the plastic sheen to it all that comes with most cheaper-produced CGI, the bobblehead character design, the jittery movements that seem to show up in television shows (usually) and the cold, dead eyes on the characters, particularly Fawn, that never ceased to creep me out, this is a pretty ugly looking production and seeing all of those minute details on the big screen only makes its flaws all the more glaring. If I can at least be fair, though, DisneyToon has had plenty of practice with depicting fairy flight and it shows here as the flying scenes look pretty good.

For a film with Tinker Bell right in the title, Tinker Bell is in about 5-10% of the overall production; Fawn is well and truly the main character here and while that isn't really a problem on its own, there’s something to be said about the potentially misleading title. Then again, that’ll happen when you title your franchise after one of the characters instead of calling it “Fairies Of Peter Pan” or something like that in case of releases like this. This is just nitpicking though, which is more than I can say for the rest of the story. This is an extremely basic story about a misunderstood creature that only the lead character can see for what it really is; it hits all the same beats that you’d expect except this film doesn’t even go so far as to provide any real connection to the creature in question. Hell, there’s that little connection made between the audience and the Neverbeast that I would have entirely been on Nyx’s side had I not seen this story played out so many times and seeing her character role being wrong every time. And then there’s the ending, which… okay *SPOILERS* just to be on the safe side, but after the Neverbeast saves everyone, it has to go back into hibernation for another 100 years until next time it’s needed. This is treated as a big emotional scene, with the fairies saying that they will never see it again, except… maybe it’s just because I’m a big geek and thus have a natural need to maintain continuity, but I thought one of the big things about Neverland was that no-one ever aged. Sure, it may be a long time, but they would be able to see the Neverbeast again; this ending may be sad, but not for the reasons that we’re given.

All in all, I don’t really have a lot to say about this thing: This is a straight-to-DVD or straight-to-Disney Channel film that shouldn’t have been released to cinemas. The voice acting is admittedly decent, even if the more than talented cast isn’t given anything useful aside from basic character archetypes, and the animation has its moments but this is still a DisneyToons production; there’s nothing all that impressive or entertaining to be had here. I’d recommend this to parents with very, very young kids who could use a bit of mindless distracting to get on DVD, but even then there are far better films that can serve that purpose. At least The Pirate Fairy had some pretty interesting ideas as well as some decent set-up as an unexpected prequel to Peter Pan; this, on the other hand, doesn’t deliver nearly as much and considering what I’ve heard that this is the last film to be made in the franchise, this is a pretty weak note to end on. It ranks higher than The Interview, as this doesn’t have the same feeling of wasted potential purely because it didn’t try nearly as much, but it ranks just below Dumb & Dumber To, mostly on the basis of how good the ending to that movie was. I may not have liked, but I don’t hate it because of how ultimately harmless and inoffensive it is.

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