Review – FOUL! (“Artemis Fowl”)

Based on two of the popular 2001 book series by Eoin Colfer,  this movie, adapted by the Disney machine, has fans of the books crying foul ever since the trailer dropped. Apparently the Harry Potter/Spy Kids/Men In Black spin isn’t sitting well with people who know the character and subject matter. Welcome to Hollywood!

I’ve never read any of the books, so I can’t make any comparisons, but this is one bad movie adaptation. Narrated by an oversized dwarf named Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad having a fun time), we are quickly thrust into the life of Artemis Fowl (Colin Farrell), who’s either an international art thief or really good business man. His 12-year-old son, Artemis, jr (Ferdia Shaw) is a super-genius and believes (like his father) in all the Irish folk tales, which is good because dear ‘ol dad just got kidnapped by Opal Koboi (Hong Chau), an evil pixie, who demands the McGuffin… I mean, the “Aculos”, a gizmo of untold power.

But where is that Aculos hidden? Only Fowl, Sr. knows and it’s up to Jr. to figure it out and save his pops! That’s story A. Meanwhile, we also have story B running at the same time. Hidden deep in the Earth is Wakanda. . .I mean, Haven City, the super-advanced techno-city that’s home to all fairy tale creatures imaginable, but policed by elves and their commander, Julius Root (a gravelly-voiced Judi Dench). Root assigns recon officer Holly Short (Lara McDonnell) to investigate the human world for that Aculos, even though Holly has a checkered past. After a bout with a troll, Holly is caught and captured by Artemis, Jr and his loyal butler/bodyguard, Domovoi “Dom” Butler (Nonso Anozie).

Now, having a captured elf is dangerous to the other world, so Root calls out a huge tactical elvish SWAT team to rescue Holly, but after getting their butts kicked by a kid and a butler (???), she decides on sneaky diplomacy instead. Root calls in her ace-in-the-hole, the incarcerated Mulch to spring the captured elf, but it didn’t matter as Artemis and Holly become friends, having bonded over their missing dads. Well, that was convenient! The Aculos is located, there’s a big action piece when Professor Quirrell yells, “There’s a troll in the castle!”, and really dumb ending that defies what has already been presented on the screen. Wait, what??

I have a theory. Screenwriters Conor McPherson (The Eclipse) and Hamish McColl (Johnny English Reborn) are actually 10-years-old each and like to write stories/ fan-fiction for school and their friends. That’s because this simplistic, badly paced, and horribly childish dialogue could not have been done by adults! They took the first two books, cut, chopped, dissected, and eviscerated the story into something abominable. Result? The completed movie looks like it’s TWO complete full-length movies badly edited to make ONE hour and 35 min film. Nothing makes sense, the plot holes have plot holes, scenes start then stop for no reason, characters say dialogue that makes NO sense whatsoever, and craziest of all, Artemis Jr. is barely the main character!!

Director Kenneth Branagh (Thor, Murder on the Orient Express) at least makes this movie LOOK good with all the impressive CGI and whiz-bang SPFX, but this is nothing less than Harry Potter/Percy Jackson meets the Men In Black. It also doesn’t help that the lead, newbie Ferdia Shaw, has all the charm & charisma of a bag of rocks. He’s never acted before and it shows. Fortunately, he’s not on screen that much and his co-stars fare much better. The impressive Lara McDonnell, she of the big, brown Keene eyes, at least tries with the ridiculous lines she has to say. I can’t imagine what Dame Judi Dench, the high-priestess of cinema, was thinking when she signed-on to do this lame film. Money? A favor to Branagh? Blackmail?

At least the one saving grace in whole debacle was Josh Gad. As narrator and comic relief, he knew how to play his character; throw out the script and improvise your lines. At least, that’s what it looked like. He was the only shining light in this whole wretched waste of time. This movie is currently streaming only on the Disney+ platform and not in any theaters… yet. This is both a blessing and a curse, I guess. A blessing, as I didn’t have to PAY any extra to watch it, but a curse as it was an hour and 35 minutes I’ll never get back. Oh, and a sequel, as it alludes to it in the end? Pfffffft!! I don’t think so!! LOL!!

**NOTE: Watch the trailer. Almost 90% shown is NOT in the movie!

Spy Kids (2001)

Little did writer, editor, producer, and director Robert Rodriguez know that his wildly fanciful and kid-friendly movie would launch a second career for him. An imaginative film that was shot almost all on green screens, including bizarre and very silly CG creatures, and a host of Rodriguez’s actor friends.

We begin with a bedtime story told to a couple of young kids by their mom, Ingrid Cortez (Carla Gugino). A tale of married spies that fell in love, had kids, and then retired. But it turns out that Ingrid and her husband, Gregorio (Antonio Banderas), isn’t a fairy tale, but very real. Retired from the Organization of Super Spies (OSS) they do consulting work, until several of their old colleagues turn up missing. Swinging back into the spy game, they leave their two children, capable 12-year-old Carmen (Alexa Vega) and troublemaker 9-year-old Juni (Daryl Sabara) in the hands of their uncle Felix (Cheech Marin).

However things go sideways as Gregorio & Ingrid get kidnapped by Juni’s hero, a strange kid’s TV host named Fegan Floop (Alan Cumming) and his brainy side-kick named Minion (Tony Shalhoub). Looks like Floop & Minion have mutated the missing agents into his “Fooglies”. Yeah, toldya this was silly! Floop also has an army of “Thumb-Thumbs”, giant walking thumb robot creatures at his Tim Burton-esque castle. His diabolical plan? Make identical robot children that look like famous leaders kids and take over the world! Bwahahahaa! BUT! Minion needs the crucial “third brain” gizmo to complete his plans.

Meanwhile, Felix tells the kids the truth about their kidnapped parents just as he’s captured by the Thumb-Thumbs. The children escape on a submarine to a safe house where they’re double-crossed by the head of the OSS (Teri Hatcher). Escaping again and with nowhere else to go, they locate their long-lost uncle Machete (Danny Trejo), a master of building cool spy tech. Using a mini-spy jet, the kids zoom to Floop’s castle to rescue their parents, foil the sale of the robot children to a nefarious government guy (Robert Patrick), and stop Minion from his diabolical deeds! Oh, and the new leader of the OSS (George Clooney) shows up at the end with a mission… for the kids!

Robert Rodriguez really knows how to make kids happy, as evident by no less than FOUR sequels and an animated series. Don’t read too much into the plot, story, or even backstory as it doesn’t matter, it’s all for the kiddies, with goofy-looking creatures, kids behaving like adults, adults behaving like kids, lotsa prat-falling, bright colors and wild adventures that don’t stop. Yes, it’s very dumb with monstrously huge plot holes and logic being thrown out the window, but just look at this like a cartoon come to life.

Pre-teen Alexa Vega takes point as the spy kid with scruples which is good, ’cause Daryl Sabara is all bumbling, stumbling, and rather unlikable as her put-upon brother. These two constantly fight and bicker SO MUCH it’s a wonder how these two ever pull off a rescue! Whereas Sabara isn’t very good acting-wise, Vega is excellent and is believable in her role. It’s also fun to see Banderas, Trejo, and others in this ridiculously silly kids film having fun with their characters.

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