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)

Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

Author P.L. Travers reflects on her childhood after reluctantly meeting with Walt Disney, who seeks to adapt her Mary Poppins books for the big screen. (IMDb)
A wonderfully crafted screenplay carries this touching character-driven drama:The present-time tale of rude and uptight P.L. Travers as she struggles with her book’s film adaptation is broken up by beautifully-shot scenes of her tragic childhood that gradually seep into and enlighten the current story as the complexity of her character is unraveled. Standard bits of sentimentality and humour shine bright amidst this deep script and round out a well-acted and thoughtfully written film.
8/10 (Great)

Dumbo (1941)

Ridiculed because of his enormous ears, a young circus elephant is assisted by a mouse to achieve his full potential. (IMDb)
The story here is a touching underdog/family vignette (Dumbo and Timothy are a great pair, and the wordless bond between Dumbo and his mother is heart-melting) but the hallucination scene, while hilarious, feels unnecessary, especially when considering how Dumbo’s rise to redemption after such prolonged suffering breezes by in only a single scene. A slightly reconfigured screenplay is all that’s left to be desired in this moving classic chock full of the standard exceptional Disney animation.
6.5/10 (Alright)

Cinderella (1950)

When Cinderella’s cruel stepmother prevents her from attending the Royal Ball, she gets some unexpected help from the lovable mice Gus and Jaq, and from her Fairy Godmother. (IMDb)
The fun and cozy animation and the memorable secondary characters (those adorable mice!) are two definite standouts here, while the fairy tale at hand is refreshingly non-romantic: Cinderella and the prince actually develop hardly any relationship at all, and the mice’s exploits in helping “Cinderelly” before and after the ball make up the bulk of the story. Although it does fall back to a typical lover’s happy ending, the film’s endearingly unique underdog plot line throughout overshadows it.
7/10 (Good)

Bambi (1942)

The story of a young deer growing up in the forest after his mother is shot by hunters. (IMDb)
A beautiful looking movie with adorable animation, refreshingly sparse but ever-so-cute dialogue, and a few hauntingly dark sequences thrown in that offer a startling and affecting contrast to the innocence that pervades the rest of the story. Putting the aforementioned scenes aside, the film isn’t exactly edge-of-your-seat drama, action, or comedy, but it is charming in its simplicity and remarkable in how it pulls you in and melts the heart despite a lack of the aforementioned elements.
7/10 (Good)