unshaved mouse



See this guy here? This is my brother John. And he’s basically just been crowned King of the Impressions in Ireland.

(Fair warning, a lot of the celebrities he impersonates are Irish so you’re just going to have to take my word for it that he nails them to the frickin’ wall)

Since uploading this video he’s become something of an internet sensation. I’m very proud of him naturally, but as his older brother I feel it is my duty to make sure that he doesn’t get too up himself.

Also, I owe him for the time he broke my collarbone. And the time he split my head open with a rock. And the story that he told in his best man’s speech about the encounter between me and that Moldavian hooker that was nothing but a tissue of half-truths from beginning to end.

So, John, I’m calling you out.

An Impression Off. You versus me. Man versus Mouse. 25 characters chosen at random.

The winner gets bragging rights and the loser’s share of the inheritance.

You in? Or are you going to show them that your best impression is of a certain farmyard animal?


“He’s insulting both of us!”

Oh, and just FYI, the impression that you say is of Young Biff is actually Griff, his grandson from Back to the Future 2.

Tsk, tsk, tsk.


"Youre getting sloppy, Mouse."

Labyrinth (1986)

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)
Some days are harder than others in this job unpaid perpetual indentured servitude.
This review came about because one of my very, very closest friends donated embarrassingly generously to Joanna and simply asked that I review a beloved childhood movie of hers, Jim Henson’s Labyrinth.
And now I’m going to crap all over it because I’m classy like that.
Oh, and she’s just announced that she’s engaged (Congratulations Fleur!).
Sorry to everyone who loves this film and I know there are many of you. Sorry to fans of David Bowie and Jim Henson (of which I consider myself one on both counts). Apologies to all you ladies out there (and a not inconsiderable number of you gentlemen) for whom the sight of David Bowie in those pants was your Leia in a Gold Bikini.
This is one nostalgia wave you must surf alone while I sulk on the beach complaining about the sand up my crack.
Don’t like it. Never have.
Labyrinth came about during the filming of Dark Crystal when director Jim Henson and concept artist Brian Froud started throwing ideas around for a movie that would be similar to Dark Crystal but maybe a tad less traumatising for the man cubs. Froud is an absolutely phenomenal fantasy artist, but unfortunately his work is often little more than pro-fairy propaganda, and I cannot recommend any artist who’d try to burnish the image of those baby-snatching, milk souring, potato mooching, cow-hassling little mother…
Sorry, sorry. I swore when I began this review I wasn’t going to let this turn into an anti-fairy screed.
Anyway, Labyrinth began and remained to the end more of a showcase for Froud’s designs and the Henson company’s animatronic wizardry than a real attempt to tell a story. The movie is really just another entry into the surprisingly large genre of “young girl enters a strange land, makes some weird friends and sees some craaaaaaazy shit man”, joining such other exemplars of the form as Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz and that time your older sister went backpacking in Amsterdam.
David Bowie was cast as the Goblin King Jareth, over other possible choices like Sting and Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson as the Goblin King is one of those things that could have gone very, very right or very, very wrong but on the whole I think they made the right choice with Bowie. He’s still not my perfect casting for the role though.

I should be a casting director. I should live in Hollywood and have a big house and a fancy car.

George Lucas produced, Bowie provided songs, Monty Python vet Terry Jones wrote the script and the puppeteering features work by veterans like Jim Henson and Frank Oz. A lot of talented people and George Lucas worked on this. No question.
So what’s my beef?
Let’s take a look.
So the movie opens with a barn owl flying over the credits in what is actually the first ever attempt at rendering a photo-realistic animal in CGI in a motion picture. It always bowls me over to think that, far from being new or cutting edge, computer animation has been used in film for well over three decades now. As 1980s computer animation goes it’s…not at all bad actually. I mean, it’s clearly CGI but the animation is fluid and realistic and it actually holds up pretty darn well.
In a park, Sarah (Jennifer Connolly) is running around in a white dress and talking guff about goblins.
I…honestly have no idea what she’s doing here. She’s fifteen years old and playing by herself in a park. In costume.
Is she role-playing? Rehearsing a play? Feigning madness to catch the conscience of the king?
I have a theory that Sarah is actually in a constant state of delusion and that the movie and all the stuff with the Labyrinth that happens is just what she does every single day. Connolly of course went on to have a long and fruitful acting career but here she’s…a very nice young lady who’s doing her best. Alright, I know that acting almost entirely with a cast of puppets is a real challenge for any actor, but honestly I think she’s actually better in scenes where she has to interact with the various denizens of the Labyrinth. When she has to carry a scene on her own though, things get iffy. There’s some really weird line readings. Like when she hears the town clock ringing and yells “Seven O’Clock! It can’t be!” and it’s less like that she’s surprised that it’s that late and more like the very concept of seven o’clock is unthinkable because she was always taught that the clock only goes up to six.
Anyway she runs home and her parents are angry with her because they’re going out tonight and they need her to babysit her baby brother Toby. Toby, incidentally, is played by Toby Froud, Brian Froud’s son. He was originally called “Joey” in the script but they had to change the character’s name because Toby would only react to his own name on set.
Brando used to pull shit that like that all the time.

Brando used to pull shit like that all the time.

Sarah is super pissy that this baby sitting gig has called her away from LARPing solitaire and her stepmother essentially says that at her age she should be out getting laid.
"Its the EIGHTIES for Gods sake! Do some coke! Live a little!"

“It’s the EIGHTIES for Gods sake! Do some coke! Live a little!”

Her parents chew her out for causing them to be late and she goes to her room and throws herself on the bed in a huff because nobody gets her.
Youre nuttier than squirrel poop, whats to get?

You’re nuttier than squirrel poop, what’s to get?

I admit that I use to feel sorry for Sarah when I saw this movie as a kid. Now of course, I have a baby of my own and know that unreliable babysitters deserve only tortures not seen since the darkest days of the reign of Caligula.
Toby wakes up crying in the middle of the night and instead of, y’know, comforting him, or changing him, or feeding him Sarah goes in and just yells at him for five minutes and I really, really don’t like this scene at all. One, because it establishes Sarah as such a horrible person that I really can’t root for her after this and two, because Toby Froud doesn’t have a fucking clue why Jennifer Connolly is yelling at him and is clearly just freaking out.

Sarah tells the kid a story about a beautiful young girl whose horrible baby brother was carried away by the Goblin King. Somewhere, in some dark nether-realm, an army of filthy goblins springs awake.

Kinda like what happens whenever someone mentions misogny on the internet.

Kinda like what happens whenever someone mentions misogyny on the internet.

The Goblins listen intently  as Sarah says “I wish! I wish! I can bear it no longer! Goblin King! Goblin King! Wherever you may be take this child of mine far away from me!”

The goblins complain that “it didn’t even begin with “I wish”” and I gotta say, I think the Goblins are being overly generous to Sarah here. I mean sure, it’s not a complete sentence but I think any reasonable judge would rule in their favour if they just snatched the kid there and then.

Anyway, Sarah finally does make the wish and leaves the room and as soon as she closes the door the baby stops crying, and I’ll admit it’s an extremely creepy moment.

Sarah goes back into the darkened room to find Toby gone and finds herself face to face with the Goblin King (David Bowie, at his very Bowiest). I’ll admit, I love Bowie’s performance here, even though I’m not sure you could exactly call it great acting. It’s kind of like the performance a lot of actors give in Muppet movies, not exactly mugging for the camera but very clearly in on the joke. There’ s no denying that the guy has incredible charisma though, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s sporting a package that would be the pride of a male pornstar or indeed an internet critic.

The Fremen call it “Shai-Hulud”. The Old Man of the Desert.

The Fremen call it “Shai-Hulud”. The Old Man of the Desert.

Sarah begs him to let her brother go, saying that she was actually just joking and Jareth reveals that as well as being king of the land of the Goblins he is also Emperor of the Confederated Realm of No Backsies. Jareth tells her that if she wants Toby back she’ll have to make her way through the labyrinth to his castle in thirteen hours.

Jareth then disappears and Sarah sets off on her journey, saying “C’mon feet!”
She’s talking to her own feet.
"Wow. Shes craaaaaazy."

“Wow. Shes craaaaaazy.”

"You said it buddy!"

“You said it buddy!”

At the entrance to the labyrinth she meets Hoggle, a dwarf, who’s spraying fairies with flit and oh yes, again! Again!
Now step on em! Crush their little heads!

Now step on ‘em! Crush their little heads!

Sarah, feeling sorry for the gold-hoarding little shits actually picks one of the fairies up which then bites her and Hoggle asks what she expected from a fairy.  Yes. Yes! Exactly! It’s them or us, listen to the dwarf!
I’ve got to make mention of Hoggle here because, as well as being remarkably clear-eyed about the fairy menace, he’s an absolutely amazing effect. Apart from the design, which is a perfect rendition of Brian Froud’s style, Hoggle was achieved by having little person actor Shari Weisner portray his body movements while essentially wearing a robot face controlled and voiced by Brian Henson (it was originally going to be Terry Jones doing the voice but that ended being too much hassle). It looks gorgeous.


Hoggle shows her the way into the Labyrinth and then leaves her to it. At first Sarah doesn’t know what to do because the Labyrinth actually seems to be more of a corridor that just goes on and on without any turns (and I gotta admit, as a way of keeping people out of your castle, that’s a pretty good labyrinth). Fortunately, she’s helped out by a friendly worm who shows her a hidden entrance and she’s on her way.
Meanwhile, in the Goblin King’s castle, Toby won’t stop crying because he’s a baby surrounded by a bunch of creepy ass Goblin puppets and I don’t like this. This kid’s not acting. He’s a one year old baby who’s obviously really scared and they filmed that and put it in a movie for our entertainment and I do not like that.
Anyway, to shut the kid up Jareth sings Dance Magic. and tells the goblins that they remind him of the babe.
"What babe?"

“What babe?”

"The babe with the power."

“The babe with the power.”

"What power?"

“What power?”

"What power you ask? How about the power of flight? That doing anything for ya? That's LEVITATION homes.."

“What power you ask? How about the power of flight? That doing anything for ya? That’s LEVITATION homes.”

"What are you talking about?"

“What are you talking about?”

"I...think hes talking about Power Girl."

“I…I…think he’s talking about Power Girl.”

The babe with the power.

The babe with the power.

Bowie is awesome in this song. His goblin backing vocalists are not however, and they really drag the song down. Other than that this song is only really memorable for the scene with Bowie throwing the baby high into the air.

Yeah. I could definitely see Michael Jackson playing this part.

Yeah. I could definitely see Michael Jackson playing this part.

Meanwhile, Sarah comes to two doors that are guarded by Scottish accented moustachioed camels (one of my favourite Saturday morning cartoons from the eighties incidentally) and has to solve a version of the Liar’s Riddle. This scene I actually really like, Connolly seems more engaged in her performance and it actually shows Sarah using intelligence to solve a problem rather than trusting to blind luck. If the movie had done more of this (I say “more” because it does do some) and actually showed how Sarah’s character learns and becomes a better person through her struggles in the Labyrinth I think it could have been a much better movie. The potential is definitely there, and shines through a lot of the time, but the script really needed more work to make the story more about Sarah’s journey rather than a random series of shit that happens to her. Anyway, she chooses correctly (I think?) and falls through an endless tunnel of grabbing hands.

Poor girl. Like travelling on an Italian subway.

Poor girl. Like travelling on an Italian subway.



Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #51: Winnie the Pooh

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)
Dearly beloved.
We are gathered here today in the sight of the internet to mourn the loss of our dear friend, traditional Disney animation. TDA had of course been in very poor health this last decade or so, but we had thought he was finally turning the corner. The fact that he had been so close to a full recovery makes the circumstances of his death even more wrenching, especially knowing that his murderer still walks free.
You're a killer, Harry.

You’re a killer, Harry.

 What were you thinking Disney? Sending Winnie the Pooh out, alone and unarmed, against Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? In summer?!

"He knew the risks."

“He knew the risks.”

Well, there’s nothing left now. Traditional Disney Animation is dead. Lower him in.

Oh! Hold off the earth till I have held him in my arms once more!

Oh! Hold off the earth till I have held him in my arms once more!

"Mouse. C'mon buddy. You gotta be strong for Latin America."

“Mouse. C’mon buddy. You gotta be strong for Latin America.”

"There is nothing inside me. I am hollow now."

“There is nothing inside me. I am hollow now.”

You’re right. You’re right, I’m sorry.

Gotta get a grip.

A grip…

On Daniel Radcliffe’s lily white pencil neck…NO! BAD MOUSE!

 As absolutely crazy as it seems it retrospect, putting Winnie-the-Pooh up against Harry Potter probably wasn’t that outlandish an idea on paper. The two properties are aimed at quite different age demographics, and Disney was probably banking on their movie hoovering up all the younger cinema-goers who’s parents wouldn’t be willing to take them to a movie that is essentially Schindler’s List with wizards.

Oh Disney. Your naive belief that parents have any real control over what their children watch is what makes you so loveable.

Oh Disney. Your naive belief that parents have any real control over what their children watch is what makes you so loveable.

And while Pooh was undoubtedly the underdog in this fight, let’s not forget that the Bear of Very Little Brain is also the Bear of Massive Merchandising Revenue. Pooh may in fact be the single most valuable character in the whole Disney stable. So why was this movie absolutely crushed at the box office?

Okay fine, because it went up against fucking Harry Potter, but indulge me, please.

Bad reviews? Oh hell, no. Critics ate this up.

The fact that it was released in summer instead of in winter like most Disney movies? Nah, see I never bought the “People won’t go to see movies that are on at different times than movies like that movie are usually on” concept.

I have a theory.

If you want a bloodbath polite and well reasoned debate, ask a bunch of Disney fans how many sequels there are in the Disney canon. Rescuers Down Under  certainly. And Winnie the Pooh. But after that? Is Fantasia 2000 really a sequel considering it has no plot? Is Three Caballeros a sequel to Saludos Amigos? And if it is, does Melody Time  make it a trilogy since José Carioca and Donald Duck appear in it too? Hell, you could argue that Fun and Fancy Free  is a sequel to Pinnochio  because they both feature Jiminy Cricket and are both pant-shittingly terrifying.

But…if you were to ask just a normal person on the street how many sequels are in the Disney canon they’d look at you funny and ask “What’s a Disney cannon?”

Disney cannon

Pictured: A Disney cannon.

Y’see, to ordinary movie-goers the concept of a Disney “canon”, the idea that some movies are more Disney than others is meaningless. Disney made it, it’s a Disney movie. QED. Why should they care which part of the company created it? I mean, let’s be honest here, the whole notion of the canon is just a marketing gimmick that allows Disney to put a seal of quality on some of their movies while allowing them to pretend that their less exceptional output somehow doesn’t matter and OH JESUS CHRIST I’VE WASTED TWO YEARS OF MY LIFE.

Now, Joe Sixpack may not really get what the canon is, but he has slowly, and through painstaking trial and error, learnt one very important lesson:

Avoid Disney sequels like the fucking plague.

Rediscovering the original Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was one of my most pleasant surprises doing this blog. It really is a lovely little film. But it wasn’t the last Winnie the Pooh movie to be released by Disney.

 Not by a long…

















Alright, screw this, I gotta review to write, you get the idea.

Alright, screw this, I gotta review to write, you get the idea.

And it’s not like these were all straight to video either, quite a few of those movies actually had theatrical releases. So is it any wonder that the public weren’t queuing down the street for this one? They didn’t know that all those sequels were done by DisneyToons and that the grownups were actually in charge of this one. All they knew was that Disney had released a long string of pretty shitty Winnie the Pooh cartoons (no pun intended, I honestly swear to God). It’s Disney’s fault. They didn’t protect their characters.

You release a movie called "Frankenpooh" you deserve every damn thing that happens to you.

You release a movie called “Frankenpooh” you deserve every damn thing that happens to you.

So here we are. This is how it ends. But how does it end? With inspiring last words, or a damp fart as the muscles relax with the onset of death?

Let’s take a look.



Exquisite Annihilation: A Meditation on the use of space and silence in Beckett’s universe

Felicitations, seekers of enlightenment.

Today, we begin the next stage of our thirty part examination of the use of the pause in the work of the towering figure in twentieth century literature, Samuel Beckett.

“…” or “….”?

The perennial question is it not? Beckett used both of course, but which pause is “true Beckett”, if such a question is not ridiculous?

“…” or “….”

In his earlier work, most famously Godot, the master seemed to favour a simple “…”, but by the time of Play he seemed to have totally rejected “…”, now favouring the more elegant (but perhaps more frivolous?) “….”

We of course do not need to dredge up painful memories of Beckett’s sole, misbegotten use of “……” in Ohio Impromptu, the use of which Beckett himself blamed on stress and an imminent deadline and later excoriated as the most gross indulgence and extravagance.

"Excuse me? Unshaved Mouse?"

“Excuse me? Unshaved Mouse?”

“I am he."

“I am he.”

"Congratulations. Youve been shortlisted for Best Art  Culture Blog."

“Congratulations. You’ve been shortlisted for Best Art & Culture Blog.”

"Oh, how gratifying. Many thanks."

“Oh, how gratifying. Many thanks.”





"Who is that?"

“Who is that?”

"No idea, I think he got lost looking for No More Workhorse."

“No idea, I think he got lost looking for No More Workhorse.”

"Are you SURE this is an Art  Culture Blog?"

“Are you SURE this is an Art & Culture Blog?”

"Absolutely! Tell em SMOWE!"

“Absolutely! Tell ‘em SMOWE!”

"Oh. Yes. By his very presence are our souls enriched."

“Oh. Yes. By his very presence are our souls enriched.”

"Is he being sarcastic?"

“Is he being sarcastic?”

"Him? Never."

“Him? Never.”

"Hmmm. Well. Congratulations."

“Hmmm. Well. Congratulations.”

Is he gone?


Unshaved Mouse has been shortlisted (somehow) for Best Art and Culture Blog at the Blog Awards Ireland 2014. Huge thanks to everyone who voted, and please don’t forget I still need your votes for Best Blog Post (link here or hereabouts).

And now, let’s all look at my shiny new salmon shortlist badge.

blog awards ireland

Yes. Salmon.

Thanks again guys,




The Unshaved Mouse’s Top 5 Guilty Pleasures

Unshaved Mouse has been nominated for Best Blog Post at the Blog Awards Ireland 2014. Please take a minute to click on this link below and vote for me. You can vote once every week. Thanks a million, Mouse.


Irish comedian Dara O’Brian has a great bit where he rants about the term “guilty pleasure”. Liking a certain band or movie, he argues, should not make you feel guilty and the term “guilty pleasure” should be reserved for things that should actually make you feel guilty, like smelling women on public transport. He’s probably right, and part of me thinks that if you’ve found something in this often scary and uncaring world that makes you happy and doesn’t hurt anyone else, more power to you. I, however, was raised Catholic, which means that pretty much all pleasures are guilty pleasures. These ones though? These are the things that I love that just make me feel dirty.
5) Family Guy
Why I love it.
Alright, I know that this is a terrible show. It commits basically every writing sin there is, there’s no structure, zero consistent characterisation and it leans way, way, waaaaay too hard on shock value to try and get its laughs. And, just so we can put this to bed, racist humour is not edgy.
It's not "cutting edge" if it predates the frickin' talkies.

It’s not “cutting edge” if it predates the frickin’ talkies.

And yet, and yet…in any given episode of this show there will be at least one joke, one gag, one little bit of surrealist humour that will make me laugh out loud. Law of averages I guess. This show’s modus operandi is flinging gags at the wall at a rate of knots and hoping that they stick. And, as much as the scripting is bad in a kind of big-picture, overall sense, there are often little scenes and vignettes that contain some frankly beautiful writing. There’s a scene (incidentally from one of my least favourite episodes) where Stewie takes the entire cast of Next Generation to the drive though and it just captures perfectly the frustrations of trying to order for a large group of people and that is something I think that Family Guy can do very, very well. Just capturing the truth of little day to day moments. Also, whatever you may think of his comedy, Set McFarlane is an absolutely phenomenal voice actor.
Guilt Level: Parking in the disabled zone.
So why do I feel guilty? 
4) “Ill Mind 5” by Hopsin
Why I love it
I first came across this song on That Guy With the Glasses when RapCritic named it his best song of the year. After one listen it was already my favourite rap song of all time. Over the course of three verses addressed to, in turn, a white high school dropout, a white teenage girl and a black wannabe gangsta Hopsin takes his entire benighted generation and goes through it for a shortcut, lambasting his contemporaries as shallow, driftless, lazy, celebrity-obsessed jackasses. With impeccable flow and timing, pitch black wordplay and white-hot rage Hopsin makes a lecture essentially telling kids to stay in school, study and eat their greens sound like the most hardcore, revolutionary thing you’ve ever heard.
Guilt Level: Shouting “bollocks” in a crowded church. 
Yeah, as Rap Critic himself pointed out, it’s that second verse that really raises the alarm bells. It’s not even that I particularly disagree with Hop’s central premise viz; that if you’re a young woman who’s primary method of meeting guys is to go down to a skeezy nightclub and essentially give the patrons a strip show gratis then it’s maybe slightly disingenuous to then complain that the men you’re attracting aren’t exactly the gender’s A-team. But let’s be honest, am I going to sit here and pretend that lines like “You want Romeo, you’re not worthy/You’re cock-thirsty, nasty and probably got herpes” aren’t horribly misogynistic? No. Because I speak English as a first language and know what all those words mean. Does that mean it’s a bad song? Um…no. Great art does not have to be nice, and great artists often aren’t nice people (for example: pretty much every great artist who has ever lived).
3) Hannibal
Why I love it
Bryan Fuller’s retelling of the pre-incarceration years of Hannibal Lecter may be one of the most beautifully shot and scored series ever made for American TV. The cast (Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy, Laurence Fishbourne, Gillian Anderson) is A list, the performances are magnetic and the whole thing just drips with atmosphere.
Guilt level: Realising you’ve shot the wrong Captain Kirk.
There’s an episode in season 2 where Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishbourne) recalls how Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) objected to the name of the FBI’s “Evil Minds Research Museum”. Graham’s objection being that the name glamourizes and mythologises serial killers, making merely mentally ill criminals seem like mystical creatures. No word of a lie, when I heard that line I laughed milk out my nose at the show’s chutzpah, because glamourizing serial killers is Hannibal’s whole raison d’etre. Whether it’s the title character or any one of this universe’s seemingly inexhaustible stable of gimmick based recreational homicide enthusiasts, the series constantly presents serial murderers as terrifyingly brilliant, tortured, beautiful, otherworldly monsters. But, hey, it’s TV. I can look past that. I can also look past the show’s depiction of the seriously suspect practice of criminal profiling as essentially magic, allowing the writers to skip to the next phase of the investigation whenever they feel like it. No, it was around the end of season one when the murders became less “lurid crime scenes” and more “fucking art installation pieces”that I finally realised that this ostensibly VERY SERIOUS show was running on pixie dust and dream logic.
"Our killer just arrived, spent two weeks assembling this and the POOF! He was gone..."

“Our killer just arrived, spent two weeks assembling this and then POOF! He was gone…”

2) Warhammer 40k
Why I love it
Weirdly, I consider myself a fan of Warhammer 40k despite never actually having played the tabletop game. I’m just a fan of the setting (and I’m also an addict of the tie-in PC game Dawn of War). In the 41st Millennium, the Imperium of Man, a vast despotic empire spanning thousands of worlds, battles enemies on all sides while crumbling under the weight of its own corruption and the malicious influence of the dark gods of Chaos. The Warhammer 40k universe may actually be the grimmest in all of fiction. Take the Tau. They’re an expansionist alien empire base on Imperial Japan, forcibly conquering other alien races and annexing them in service of “The Greater Good”. In any other science fiction setting these would be the bad guys. In 40k, they’re the closest thing to heroes. Then there’s the Eldar, an ancient species so spectacularly racist that they would happily let an entire alien civilization die to save one member of their own, the Orks, who wage massive intergalactic rampages for fun, the Imperium, a ruthlessly xenophovic theocracy that want to murder anyone who’s not human, the Necrons, who want to murder everyone, period, and the Tyranids who want to murder everyone and then eat them. Oh, and then there’s the forces of Chaos. Who are the bad guys. 
Guilt level: Recounting your time in the Khmer Rouge to an international tribunal
Because it makes me a massive hypocrite. I’m the guy who’s got a quote on TVTropes “Silly Rabbit, Cynicism is for Kids” page about how the most important and worthwhile thing in fiction is to write something uplifting that doesn’t give in to cynicism and nihilism. And yet, here I am, a fan of probably one of the most nihilistic fictional universes there is. But I can’t help it, it’s just so sumptuously gothic, so meticulously detailed in its awfulness that I can’t help but love it. There’s something about the Imperium especially, basically Gormenghast crossed with the Galactic Empire, that I find incredibly compelling. Lemme tell you, if they ever make a movie based on this, they need to get Terry Gilliam to direct it.

1) Reading bad reviews.

Why I love it
Probably my favourite piece of internet movie criticism, and probably the one that inspired me to begin reviewing movies myself, is Doug Walker’s evisceration of The Legend of the Titanic. I remember thinking that what Doug was doing was almost artistic reclamation, taking a movie that had almost no redeeming features and using it as material to create something hilarious and quite brilliant. I like the idea that any movie, no matter how bad, can be put to good use and made into something entertaining. And let’s be honest, there is just something so satisfying about seeing some piece of hackwork torn apart with a single, withering put down. I don’t really write that many negative reviews myself (of the 65 movies I’ve reviewed only 13 have scored over 50% or lower) but whenever I see a one star review or an F-Grade on the AV Club I am all over that like white on rice.
Guilt level: Hearing that damn heart beat under the floorboards.
‘Cos it’s schadenfreude, pure and simple. Because, at least it part, it’s an act of mockery. And because as a writer I know that getting bad reviews is part and parcel of being a writer, actor, director, successful hotel chain, whatever, and I have no right to be smug. Am I going to stop reading bad reviews? Absolutely not. But as it happens, I’m going to be reviewing several plays in the upcoming Dublin Tiger Fringe and Dublin Theatre Festivals for Meg.ie. And some of those shows I may have to pan. But in the back of my mind I will always be thinking that that could be me. And really, in the interest of fairness, if I’m going to read other people’s bad reviews, they should be able to read mine.
Neil Sharpson aka The Unshaved Mouse is a playwright, blogger and comic book writer living in Dublin. The blog updates with a new animated movie review every second Thursday. He’s also serialising his novel The Hangman’s Daughter with a new chapter every Saturday. Like Unshaved Mouse? Let the good people at the Blog Awards Ireland know what’s what by voting for me HERE.

Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #50: Tangled

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)
My housemate Christine is one of those people who only gets around to seeing the movies everyone’s talking about years after the fact.

"Movies cut into nap time."

“Movies cut into nap time.”

This is good for me doing what I do because it means I get a perspective on movies long after the hype has died down from someone who hasn’t been swept up in the groupthink that tends to form around any given movie. Christine finally got off her branch to watch Frozen and Tangled. In that order. And this has led her to formulate what I like to call Christine’s Principle. And the principle is as follows: If you’re going to watch Frozen and Tangled, for God’s sake watch Tangled first because boy howdy does it suffer in comparison. Tangled is not bad. Tangled is in fact quite excellent, but it’s just not Frozen and seeing as they’re both Disney CGI movies featuring blonde princesses, doglike hoofed mammals and some seriously questionable parenting the comparisons are inevitable. And in a way that’s unfair to Tangled because, while it is no question not as good a movie as Frozen, I think there are areas where it is arguably superior.   What areas you ask? Well, the animation for one. I remember watching Tangled in the cinema and seeing that scene where Gothel is being hoisted up to the tower on Rapunzel’s hair. The textures and colours are all just so sumptuous and beautiful and I remember thinking for the first time that if Disney never went back to traditional animation I could live with that. Then of course I banished the thought from my mind and spent a week cloistered away scourging my back as penance. But there’s no denying it, this is a gorgeous, gorgeous film. It’s rumoured to be the most expensive animated film ever made and the second most expensive film of all time, and it looks like it. It also has a pretty killer script and I would say a better supporting cast than Frozen. In fact, now that I think about it, what makes Frozen so frickin’ great?

Oh. Right. The songs that will define a generation.

Oh. Right. The songs that will define a generation.

Tangled was huge when it came out, but it’s definitely been overshadowed by its younger sister in recent years. Is it time for a reappraisal? Let’s take a look. Oh, but let’s address the elephant in the room first. Tangled was originally called Rapunzel, but the name was changed to make it more gender neutral to appeal to boys. This move has caused quite a controversy so let me very quickly give my opinion on this pressing issue.

Don't care

Let’s take a look at the film.



The movie begins with our narrator Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) setting up the backstory like the silver tongued devil he is. Long time ago, a teardrop fell from the sun, and instead of incinerating all life on earth, grew into a golden flower. This flower was discovered by an old woman named Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy) who found that by singing a certain song, the flower could turn her young again. How did she know the right words? Why a flower? Look, this whole sequence is pretty much a load of plotholes held together by spit and glitter glue.  To whit; in the local kingdom the Queen is expecting a baby and, naturally enough, seeing as she’s about to become the mother of a Disney princess her health takes an immediate change for the worst. The king realises that what with his wife about to give birth to a Disney princess it’ll take a miracle to save her, which sounds about right. He has his troops search for this magical flower that he’s heard rumours of…somehow, and they steal it right from under Mother Gothel’s nose.

All in the game, yo.

All in the game, yo.

Um, sorry. As I write this I’m on holiday in the wilds of Wexford with Season 1 of The Wire on in the background so there might be some bleed across. Also, I gotta point this out: Flynn chews Mother Gothel out for hoarding the flower for herself and not sharing its powers, but he doesn’t seem to have a problem with the King straight up stealing it and making it into fucking soup so that no one can ever use it again. I know, I know, he probably doesn’t know how to use the flower properly (even though the rest of his intelligence about this supposedly unknown plant has been right on the money so far). Alright, anyway, they didn’t see the flower’s “Do not use while pregnant” warning label because the Queen gives birth to a baby with a head of golden hair worthy of the god of thunder.



Unfortunately, Mother Gothel, not content to just fucking die because she’s not royalty, breaks into the palace to get her shit back. Instead she finds the baby and realises that by holding the baby’s hair and singing the magic song she can recover her youth. Gothel steals the child and hides her away in a tower far away in the middle of the forest where no one can find her and raises her as her daughter. So the movie begins and Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) is now about to turn eighteen. When designing Rapunzel the Disney team had an interesting challenge. The story basically demands that Rapunzel be a beautiful girl with long blonde hair. The trouble is, a beautiful girl with long blonde hair could very easily end up looking like Barbie and everyone hates that dead-eyed skank. I actually love the design for Rapunzel, which is beautiful but also kind of dorky, with freckles, a faint lisp, a button nose and a slight overbite (although I admit I only noticed that last one when I saw the movie in 3d). Rapunzel is paired with Pascal the chameleon, who is just adorable. The two muse about what to do, and Pascal wants to go outside but Rapunzel says that they need to stay in the tower which brings us to the first song When Will My Life Begin?, which shows all the ways that Rapunzel has been killing time in the tower while waiting for something to actually happen. A great Disney movie needs great songs and unfortunately early nineties Alan Menken was unavailable, leaving us with his less talented brother, early 21st century Alan Menken. As an “I want” song, When Will My Life Begin? just doesn’t have the sense of yearning and urgency that you need in a tune like this. It’s pretty, and the lyrics are fine, but whenever I hear this song it sounds to me less like the anthem of a Disney princess and more like the theme music for a Disney Channel sitcom called That’s So Rapunzel!  Meanwhile, Flynn Rider and his colleagues in extra-legal entrepreneurship; the Stabbington Brothers (Ron Perlman), are breaking into the palace to steal Rapunzel’s unused baby tiara…which when I type it out like that is actually a spectacularly horrible thing to do. Flynn was the end result of something called the “hot guy meeting”, where directors Nathan Greno and Matthew Howard got a bunch of female Disney employees together with pictures of guys like Hugh Jackman and Ryan Gosling to cobble together a Frankenstein’s monster of utter hotness.

He does the dishes without asking and his dick is shaped like a Y.

He does the dishes without asking and his dick is shaped like a Y.

They manage to swipe the tiara simply by virtue of the palace not having bothered to beef up security after that whole “heir to the throne kidnapped by one wrinkled old lady” affair.

"Hey sarge? Do you think maybe one of us should actually be looking at the thing were supposed to be guarding?" "Look, I dont care what you learned in your fancy seminar Larry. Round here we do things my way."

“Hey sarge? Do you think maybe one of us should actually be looking at the thing we’re supposed to be guarding?”
“Look, I don’t care what you learned in your fancy seminar, private. Round here we do things my way.”

The three crooks rip and run and flee into the forest where they’re chased by the palace guards. At the tower, Rapunzel is working up the courage to ask Mother Gothel if she can leave the tower to see the floating lights that appear in the sky every night on her birthday. These are actually lanterns that everyone in the kingdom sets alight to guide the lost princess back home. Mother Gothel is a really interesting villain, lacking in power and magical ability but more than making up for it in guile and intelligence. She’s an expert manipulator, which makes sense when you remember that she’s been alive for centuries and has had plenty of time to figure out what makes people tick. In the Princess and the Frog  review I complained that there was no real relationship between Tiana and Facilier. Tangled d0esn’t repeat that mistake, and in fact I’d argue that relationship between Rapunzel and Gothel is one of the most fascinating and difficult to unravel hero/villain dynamics in the whole canon. My wife, who frequents crazier neighbourhoods of the internet than I, has had blazing online rows with people who genuinely claim that Gothel is a good mother who’s just trying to protect her daughter. Now, obviously that’s bullshit, but I will admit that I think that Gothel, in her own twisted way, does love Rapunzel. Or at least, as much as a narcissistic sociopath can love anything or anyone other than themselves. But that’s just it. Gothel loves herself, ergo she loves the flower which keeps her young and beautiful, ergo she loves Rapunzel who keeps her young and beautiful. Her love of Rapunzel is borne out of her own narcissism, but it is real. Later in the movie when Gothel comes back to the tower and finds that Rapunzel is gone her reaction is not the snarling rage you’d expect from a Disney villain in this situation (think Jafar losing the lamp) but sheer, blind panic. In short, exactly the reaction of any parent who’s lost their child. But ultimately, I choose to believe that Gothel loves Rapunzel because it just gives the story so much more thematic weight and real-world resonance. Very few of us are kidnapped from an early age to be raised by a stranger for their own nefarious ends, but all too many of us have a parent who genuinely loves us but is nontheless, you know, emotionally devouring us whole. The exchanges between Rapunzel and Gothel, the passive aggressive controlling, the “joking” belittling comments are all things that many, many children have to deal with (not me, let me just state for the record, Momma Mouse is a diamond). But nonetheless, there is a real tenderness to some of their dialogue (“I love you more.. I love you most.”) that makes me think that Gothel has genuinely deluded herself into thinking that everything she does is for her adopted daughter’s good. And if that good is also Gothel’s good, win-win, right? Alright, so Rapunzel asks if she can leave the tower and Gothel knocks this on the head with Momma Knows Best, a comedic villain song in the vein of Poor Unfortunate Souls. Menken does his best work in the movie with fun little ditties like this and I Have a Dream later on. It’s when he tries reaching for the big emotional beats that he comes a cropper. After scaring Rapunzel shitless with tales of red-toothed bandits, ravenous beasts and various members of the Cheney family, Gothel departs. Meanwhile, Flynn has double crossed the Stabbington Brothers…and there’s a surname to not piss off…and made off with the tiara on his own. He’s pursued by the palace guards, the captain of whom is riding Maximus.

"Stallion to a murdered mare. Father to a murdered foal. And I will have my revenge. In this life, or the next."

“Stallion to a murdered mare. Father to a murdered foal. And I will have my revenge. In this life, or the next.”

Maximus, like Pascal, gets no lines but his various whinnies and grunts are voiced (again, like Pascal) by Frank Welker who has…um…crap…hang on…

Let me just consult "Ye Old Tome of Frank Welker Gags".

Let me just consult “Ye Old Tome of Frank Welker Gags”.

Alright, here’s one: “Frank Welker has voiced more characters than there are freckles on Rupert Grint.” Huh. Well that seems both improbable and needlessly mean to Rupert Grint.

Man, Im starting to scrape the barrel here.

Man, I’m starting to scrape the barrel here.

Anyway, Maximus is my favourite character in this and probably one of my favorite supporting characters in the canon. It’s interesting that Disney already tried the “horse who wants to be a lawman” gag in Home on the Range to miserable effect. It works here though because unlike Buck, Maximus is fucking fantastic at it. This horse is like Judge Dredd with hooves. He gets no lines, but you just know that in his head he refers to Flynn as “Evildoer”. Couple this with some just GODDAMN SUBLIME facial animation and you have one of the all time greats. There’s so many lovely little touches. There’s one bit where Flynn swings on a vine and knocks the captain off Maximus and tries to ride off with him. Maximus stops dead, turns around, and his pupil actually shrinks in rage when he sees that this criminal degenerate has dared to sit on his back.

If looks could kill

Maximus tries to get the satchel back which ends with Flynn and Maximus falling off a cliff…



…and landing deep in the forest. Flynn hides from Maximus and finds himself outside Rapunzel’s tower. He climbs up and immediately gets laid out cold by Rapunzel wielding a frying pan because it’s a breakfast time and she’s serving up some pain. Sunny side up. I’m a writer. Of course in this situation the tricky part is what to do with the body. I’m told. So Rapunzel stashes the unconscious Rider in her closet and finds the tiara in her satchel. Gothel comes back and Rapunzel is about to show her Flynn as proof that she can take care of herself but Gothel goes completely psycho when Rapunzel even broaches the subject of leaving the tower so instead Rapunzel comes up with a plan. She asks Gothel for some new paints from a town that’s three days journey away and Gothel, probably anxious to sweep the whole matter under the rug, agrees. With Gothel gone, Rapunzel takes Flynn out of the closet and ties him to a chair. When he comes to she offers him a deal; if he takes her to Corona (the kingdom, it’s not named in the movie but the Disney wiki’s never steered me wrong yet) and brings her back, she’ll return his satchel with the tiara. Flynn really doesn’t want to return to the scene of the crime and tries desperately to get out of this, even bringing to bear the awesome power of The Smolder.


"How fucking dare they?"

Please vote for me. It is my birthday.

Today, Unshaved Mouse turns the big Zero Two and I’ve received a pretty awesome birthday present. The blog has been nominated for best Blog Post (for the Lion King review) and that means I have to once again call on you, my loyal readers, to help me get into the final ten so that I can have the privilege of being utterly crushed by the Waterford Whispers. If you want to help me in this noble endeavour, you can vote HERE. You can vote once every week unless you have mad hacking skills. Do you have mad hacking skills? Please get in touch. We should talk.

Mouse out.


The Unshaved Mouse’s Top 10 Most Tear-Jerking Disney Moments

Being a tough, grizzled, tobaccy chewin’ kind of rodent I rarely succumb to displays of emotion. But there have been times over the past two years that have caused my granite-like emotional stoicism to crack. Reviewing the entire Disney canon is a bit like pregnancy *dodges wife-flung heavy object* in that no one ever warns you what it does to your hormones and such. This is a list I’ve wanted to do for a while now: the Unshaved Mouse’s Top Ten Moments That Made Me bawl like an infant Chop Onions. How weepy are these moments? Let me put it this way; Bambi’s mother getting shot doesn’t even make the list. So stiffen your upper lip and think happy thoughts because this list is about to nutsack you right in the feels.

# 10- “NO! They pretend they’re going to always be there for you, and then one day they pack up and move away and take their love with them, and leave their declawed cat to fend for herself! They leave her, wondering what she did wrong.” Bolt.

Good grief but this movie does not get the respect it’s due.

#9- “You see, Willie was a miracle. And people just aren’t used to miracles.” Make Mine Music.
The oldest, and certainly the most obscure entry on this list, The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met is a short from Make Mine Music that starts out as an hilarious comedy about a whale with a talent for singing opera and takes a sudden massive swerve into darker territory when Willie is harpooned by an opera impresario who mistakenly believes that he’s swallowed an opera singer. It’s incredibly bleak, a story about someone who simply wanted to share his gift being destroyed by a world that cannot accept the unbelievable, no matter how wonderful it is.
Sad Stitch
#8- “Waiting” “For what?” “Family.”-Lilo and Stitch
Man, I could have made this list up of bits from Lilo and Stitch alone if I wanted to. Stitch’s transformation from furry sociopath to someone who needs love and affection has many steps along the way. This is the scene where he wanders into the forest, hoping that he will find someone to be his family only to be told by his creator that he was never meant to be loved. Harsh.
 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh Pooh and Christopher Robin
#7- “Promise me that you’ll never forget me? Even when I’m a hundred?” “How old shall I be?” “Ninety-nine. Silly old bear.” The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Aw jeez…he’s had him since he was a year old! Keep it together Mouse, keep it together…
Sad Squirrel
#6- “Well…yes boy. Yes, in its way I’d say it’s the greatest force on earth.”- The Sword in the Stone.
There are only entry two entires on this list from the Scratchy Era, which tended to go pretty easy on the emotional trauma all things considered, but this scene manages to wring real tragedy out of what is, on the surface, a pretty farcical situation. Wart is transformed into a squirrel by Merlin and meets a girl-squirrel who falls instantly in love with him. It’s played for laughs until Wart is transformed back into a human and his admirer’s dreams are transformed to ash. In the midst of all the emotional wreckage, Merlin sadly tells Wart that love is “powerful business”. Even the mightiest wizard in the universe knows that there are some forces that simply should not be trifled with.
#5- “The greatest glory and honour is having you for a daughter.” Mulan
Did I find this scene as affecting before I had a daughter of my own? No. What can I say? Becoming a dad flips a switch. It’s the way that Fa-Zhou casts aside the medal and the sword, articles of honour beyond any price, as if they mean nothing. His little girl is home. And nothing matters compared to that.
 my family
#4-“This is my family. I found it. It is small and broken. But still good. Yeah. Still good.” Lilo and Stitch
Look, I just want five minutes where Lilo and Stitch is not trying to break me like glass, is that too much to ask? Seriously, what did I ever do to this movie?
#3- “Dad. Come on. We gotta go home.” The Lion King
Yeah, you all knew this was coming. I don’t even know what I can say about this scene. Incredibly harsh, emotionally raw, utterly beautiful. And I’ve said it before, Jonathan Taylor Thomas does not get enough praise for his voicework in this movie. Absolutely phenomenal.
Onions. Shut up.

Onions. Shut up.

#2- “Aloha ‘oe.” Lilo & Stitch
And for the hat-trick…
Do you want to build a snowman
#1-“Do you want to build a snowman?”- Frozen
Part of me wants to hold off on this until I finally review Frozen, but I couldn’t have any other entry on the top of this list. This is the only one that will, without fail, get me to cry chop onions whenever I hear it. It’s sneaky too, it starts out with that joyous little piano intro so you think it’s going to be a happy, chirpy little number about a little girl whose unflagging optimism finally convinces her sister to open the door and come play with her. But she never does, and the song follows Anna’s mood, starting out happy and light, becoming more forceful and energetic as she gets older, then slower and more melancholy as she stops even trying. And then, after the death of her parents, Anna finally slumps down with her back to Elsa’s door, trying one last time to get through to her. The final, world-weary, “Do you want to build a snowman?” is utterly devastating not because of what’s being said but what’s left unsaid: I know you don’t. I just have to ask one more time. Because after this…I give up.
“Do you want to build a snowman?” in my opinion, is the single most emotionally devastating song in the entire canon because it is about the death of hope.
Now wasn’t that fun? What did I leave out? What should have been higher? What has no business on this list? Let me know in comments.
Mouse out.

Akira (1988)

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)
When it received a limited release in US theatres in 1988, Akira was by no means the first exposure Americans had had to Japanese animation. Animé had a small but continuos presence on American television screens since at least Astro Boy in the early sixties. But it’s undoubtedly true that no one in the West had ever seen anything like this movie before. Shows like Astro Boy, Battle of the Planets and Kimba the White Lion were exported to the West because they were children’s shows, and they fit into Western perceptions of animation as being entertainment for the man cubs. Darker, more mature animé for adult audiences simply did not have a market outside of Japan, and in fact even Akira only received a limited release after Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas passed on it, considering it “unmarketable” to American audiences.  While there had been a fandom for Japanese animation in the States since at least the seventies, Akira was a seismic event, massively swelling the ranks of fans in the US and other Western nations and hugely increasing the genre’s visibility in mainstream pop culture. Why? Well, the animation for starters. Over a quarter of a century later and it’s still one of the greatest technical achievements in cel-animation ever drawn. It’s jaw-dropping. When fans of animé want to induct new members into the church, Akira is more often than not the movie they reach for. Now, I know I’ve already reviewed one animé movie on this blog before, but honestly Studio Ghibli are very much their own little sub-genre with very distinctive tropes and styles that don’t really hold true for the rest of animé. Akira is much closer to what people picture when they hear the word “animé”, which is not surprising given how big a role it played in shaping the genre. With that in mind, and since this is a blog usually devoted to Western animation, now is probably a good place to talk about animé in general and address some of the more common questions.
“Manga”, “Animé”, what’s the diff?
Short version: Manga is comics, Animé is animation. The two industries are much more closely linked than in the West. Many comicbook writers work in animation and vice versa, and the director of Akira was no exception, the movie actually being Katsuhiro Otomo’s adapation of his own manga series.
Why does everyone in animé look white and how guilty should I feel about it?
All animé owes a debt to the work of Osamu Tezuka, the creator of Astro Boy. Tezuka’s was hugely influenced by Western animators like the Fleischer Brothers and of course Walt Disney.
"Did you really think you could escape me?"

“Did you really think you could escape me?”

The big round eyes of so many animé characters are not  as a result of some kind of ethnic inferiority complex, but because they’re drawn in a style influenced by Betty Boop and Mickey Mouse. Also, everyone has different colour hair just because it’s more interesting visually. Not all animé comforms to this however. A lot of more naturalistic animé will have characters that are more recognisably Asian (Akira for example).
So much of animé seems obsessed with huge explosions and the end of the world. What’s up with that?
Oh wow. I can’t imagine why that would be. Let’s just sit here for seven days and nights and see if we can crack this inscrutable conundrum.
Animé seems to be so full of sex and violence. Won’t somebody please think of the children? Also, the Japanese are clearly all perverts.
Thought experiment. If you sat an alien down and screened for him all the movies made in America in any given year, their first question would be “why do most of these have close up shots of dicks going into various orifices?”  See, a huge percentage of films made in North America are hardcore porn because it’s cheap as chips to make and very lucrative. But when we think of “American cinema”, My Ass is Haunted is not usually part of the conversation. We compartmentalise porn and regular cinema, while filing Japanese hentai simply under “animé”. Japan’s porn tends to be animated, but other that there’s no real difference. The Japanese are no more “weird” or “sick” than we are.
Yeah, okay, that shit’s pretty weird and sick.
What’s good against steel-type Pokémon?
I don’t know. No one does. And anyone in the comments who says they do is a liar.
That’s the basics. Keep in mind though, I’m just a casual fan, not an animé expert by any stretch of the imagination. If you do want to go deeper down the anime rabbit hole allow me to recommend Anime Reporter. Oh, and while I usually don’t put up spoiler warnings (it’s a blog where I recap the entire plots of movies in detail what do you think is going to happen?) I should mention I’ll also be discussing plot points from the manga as well, so fair warning.



Disney Reviews the Unshaved Mouse #49: The Princess and the Frog

Unshaved Mouse has been nominated for Best Blog Post at the Blog Awards Ireland 2014. Please take a minute to click on this link below and vote for me. You can vote once every week. Thanks a million, Mouse.


(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)

God I hate when this happens.
See, here’s the thing. I already knew what I was going to say about Princess and the Frog months ago. I had my arguments prepared, I’d done my research, the only thing remaining to do was to sit down and watch it again before actually writing the review. And then, of course, my opinion of the movie changed pretty substantially and now I’m back to square one. Alright, a lot of you have been asking me my opinion on the Princess and the Frog, and until very, very recently it was this:
Don’t like it. Hugely disappointing. Major flaws. Disney screwed the pooch. To get traditional animation back in contention they needed a perfect ten and we got a five. Mouse not happy.
But then…yeah, I watched it again and it’s safe to say that my opinion has mellowed quite a bit. Not totally. The problems I thought were there are still there. What problems you ask? Three are the problems, and the number of the problems is three.
  1. Tiana
You know, given Disney’s sterling record of diversity it’s kind of amazing that it’s taken this long for us to have an African American princess.
"Ha! Good one!"

“Ha! Good one!”

I’m actually not being sarcastic. Think about it, since Little Mermaid in 1987, of the seventeen canon movies featuring humans we’ve had Arab protaganoists, Asian protagonists, Native American protagonists, gypsy protagonists, Hawaiian protagonists, Mayan protagonists and even that most reviled and loathed of all minorities…

The French.

So, why has it taken them this long? Well, seeing as you’re on the internet you probably aren’t aware of this, but race can be something of a sticky wicket. By which I mean, Disney knew that if they fucked up on this they would be eaten alive so it’s probably not surprising that they took this one nice and slow. And, in my opinion at least, they succeeded. There is nothing problematic about the character of Tiana. She is as positive and progressive a depiction of an African American woman as you could hope to find. On a possibly not unrelated note, she is also really, really, really, really, really boring. Who do I blame for that? The writers? The animators? Voice actor Anika Noni Rose? No. At the risk of being unpopular, I place the blame solely on…
Yes you, people on the internet.
This movie came under an insane amount of scrutiny long, long, before it was even released, with Disney making many changes in response to every new backlash and charge of racism. Now, some of the criticism may have been fair, but honestly some of it just strikes me as petty. For example, the heroine’s name was originally “Maddy” which was changed to Tiana because “Maddy” rhymes with “Mammy”. So, yeah, I know right? Wasn’t that a bullet narrowly dodged? Now I, for one, was unaware that names that happen coincidentally to rhyme with racist slurs are racist by association but I’ll certainly keep that in mind in fut…OH MY GOD!!!


So, it’s understandable that the script for this thing feels like it was written by someone walking on eggshells. And yes, obviously writers have to treat the issue of race carefully and with sensitivity, but I think a certain degree of good faith is required on behalf of the audience as well. It’s just the problem with living in a world where any blowhard can get on his virtual soap box and complain about a movie that hasn’t even been released yet and why are you all looking at me like that? But there is another problem with Tiana that goes beyond all of that. Alright, the simplest, most basic story you can tell goes like this. Character A (the protagonist), wants something, and we want to see him get that thing. Character B (the antagonist) wants something that is mutually exclusive to what character A wants, and we don’t want to see him get that. The characters struggle against each other, and from this we get conflict, drama and finally resolution. Now, you can alter and flip and rearrange and deconstruct or just flat out ignore this model in literally an infinite number of different ways but most of the time that’s what it boils down to. The central conflict is the heart of the story. And Tiana exists almost entirely outside the central conflict. She’s essentially an onlooker in her own story. The conflict is between Naveen and Facilier. You could conceivably have a movie just about those two. What is the relationship between Tiana and Facilier? What’s the personal stake? As the old lady once said, where’s the beef?
  1. The Script
Not bad, but really needed to be funnier. And from Clements and Musker we had a right to expect better.
  1. Randy Goddamn Newman
Fine in small doses, don’t get me wrong. But to write a musical you need versatility almost as much as you need raw songwriting talent. Your songs need to be versatile enough to convey an entire emotional spectrum and Newman just can’t do that. There’s an unmistakeable saminess to his songs that make them less emotional beats in the story set to music, and more mere musical intervals (with the exception of Friends on the Other Side, which is awesome.) This is the single biggest problem with the movie in my opinion. There’s enough good in the rest of the movie that a Howard Ashman or Sherman Brothers or Kristen Anderson Lopez could have lifted this up to the realm of the all-time greats.
Well okay, enough about what they got wrong. Let’s take a look at what they got right.