Tangled (2010)

A voluminous fairy tale flick with lots to note: the plot is full of songs, action, and comedy (often tangled together–there’s plenty of slapstick), the damsel-in-distress motif is turned (hit) on its head (with a frying pan), and the uniquely chilling villain (an emotionally manipulative parent) adds some poignancy to the coming-of-age arc. The romance is sweet (“You were my new dream”) but also, she just turned 18 and has never seen the world so the power dynamic there is a bit offputting.

Moana (2016)

Rides a lot of very familiar story waves (see the unlikely duo, the parting, the return just in time) but they’re beautifully animated, their sailors Moana and Maui are very likeable (also special shout-out to enigmatic Gramma: “Is there something you want to tell me?” “Is there something you want to hear?”) and there’s great splashes of music, mirth (the chicken is just fucking hilarious), and eco-feminist-tinged magic throughout. The pacif-ic/ist ending is stunning (“This is not who you are”).

Mary Poppins (1964)

It’s too long (the painting escapade needed a trim) but overall a delight both humourous and heartwarming (see the kite-flying), with the practically perfect in every way Mary Poppins at the forefront: her mix of cheeky seriousness (see her back-and-forths with the uppity Mr. Banks) and serious cheekyness (“I never explain anything”), of mirthful magic and feigned matter-of-fact-ness (“I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about”), with tender heart and voice is singular and fantastic.

Robin Hood (1973)

Disney takes on unjust economics and class warfare: there’s literally a 7-year old bunny with a wooden sword yelling “Death to tyrants!” at one point. Undeniably goofy and fun (the archery tournament is a blast and the villains are hilarious), but it doesn’t shy away from the despair of poverty and oppression (“Sometimes ups outnumber the downs, but not in Nottingham”). The plot lacks a solid thrust and arc, but it still hits all the right notes, especially with that golden soundtrack.

The Fox and the Hound (1981)


Two childhood friends find themselves forced to become enemies. (IMDb)
The “friends forced to be enemies” premise would have resonated more if the film had dwelt more on the fox and the hound being both. As it is, it’s mostly forgettable fluff with a few good action sequences and hardly any humour, and with its unmemorable–unusually so by Disney standards–secondary characters and songs there’s not much to distract from it. Only the ever-so-slight side-plot with the odd-couple birds and the caterpillar ever really catches your fancy after all is said and done.
6/10 (Mediocre)

The Sword in the Stone (1963)


A poor boy named Arthur learns the power of love, kindness, knowledge and bravery with the help of a wizard called Merlin in the path to become one of the most beloved kings in England history. (IMDb)
The book-ending bits after which the film is named end up feeling like unnecessary additions to its central story-a charmingly aimless little tale of a bumbling old wizard taking a gangly young boy under his wing and teaching him life lessons (see his line about love and gravity) through experiencing the lives of three different animals. Full of fun slapstick (see the recurring wolf gag) and whimsical animation (literally–see the live dishes), with one particularly enjoyable wizard’s duel.
7/10 (Good)

Zootopia (2016)


In a city of anthropomorphic animals, a rookie bunny cop and a cynical con artist fox must work together to uncover a conspiracy. (IMDb)
A solid buddy-cop detective tale provides a convenient basis for a thorough and engaging exploration of the vibrant Zootopia–a modern city cleverly contorted to house anthropomorphic animals of all kinds (the DMZ sloths, Mr. Big, and the nude commune were three hilarious highlights)–which, in turn, was the perfect setting for a pointed discussion (heavy-handed at times) on racial stereotyping and discrimination. An imaginative and well voiced and animated film with a good–if not nuanced–message.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007)


Benjamin Gates must follow a clue left in John Wilkes Booth’s diary to prove his ancestor’s innocence in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. (IMDb)
The basis for another exciting clue-following adventure feels forced this time around but the one here is still delightfully rambunctious (helped by another memorable Cage turn: “I’m going to kidnap the president of the United States”). Unfortunately, the repetitive bad guy has even shakier motives, and the sequel-version of sidekick Riley is no longer funny but whiny and annoying. Attempted additions to the first film’s formula (see the marital woes of father and son) are less than engaging.
6.5/10 (Alright)

The AristoCats (1970)


With the help of a smooth talking tomcat, a family of Parisian felines set to inherit a fortune from their owner try to make it back home after a jealous butler kidnaps them and leaves them in the country. (IMDb)
A lazily written adventure plot here is boosted by its three-fold setting (an elegant mansion, the rustic countryside, and a ramshackle city house) and bevy of charming characters, from piano-playing kittens to simpleton farm dogs to a gaggle of giggling geese. Throw in a devious butler, a heroic tomcat, and a rag-tag group of jazzy alley-cats and you have the ingredients for some hysterical slapstick, exciting escapades, and one particularly catchy tune (“Everybody wants to be a cat!”).
7/10 (Good)

Big Hero 6 (2014)

The special bond that develops between plus-sized inflatable robot Baymax, and prodigy Hiro Hamada, who team up with a group of friends to form a band of high-tech heroes. (IMDb)
A surprisingly tragic lead and heavy road-to-redemption story here are trivialized by predictable and lightning-quick character development and plot movement, while fun secondary characters are established with little precedent, gain even less depth, and deliver mediocre juvenile humour. Baymax–headlining the film’s cool tech theme–is the most interesting (and funny) of all the characters, but even his big body can’t hide the film’s lazy and rushed script that squanders its content’s potential.
6.5/10 (Mediocre)