#VicksFlicks Special Edition: Disney Live Action Movies

 In Movie Reviews, Movies, Terse Twitter Reviews

MULAN

3 out of 5 stars

There’s no capturing the spirit of the classic Disney animation with emotional heft and humor being cut out, giving off a vacantness that weakens it as a whole. Still, there’s signs of strength to combat it in this woman-warrior tale we know so well. As one of the more satisfying live-action outings, it benefits big time from the fantastic casting and beautiful action sequences. It’s storytelling on a gallant scale as director Niki Caro keeps tradition alive while making modern, mystical acclimations with a splitting sword built of female empowerment and being true to oneself. And it’s all made possible by the star-making turn from Yifei Liu as the loyal daughter who emerges as a fearless fighter, carving out her own path in becoming what legends are made of.

ALICE IN WONDERLAND

2.5 OUT OF 5 STARS

Wonderland looks beautiful, dazzling, and stunning. However, the movie itself is not. You think you will get something refreshing and unusual due to Tim Burton’s direction and creation of a story we all know. You hope Johnny Depp will bring something brilliantly weird as the Mad Hatter. But most of that never happens. The movie has a great cast and Mia Wasikowska is a delightful Alice. I just wish I would have been as enthralled with the story as I was with the visuals. There was potential, but just like that Cheshire Cat – it disappears.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

3.5 OUT OF 5 STARS

This tale as old as time still magically dazzles with an incredible cast, led by the undeniable chemistry of Emma Watson and Dan Stevens. Bill Condon spins this beloved Disney classic into a visually radiant, enchanting dance, one you don’t mind experiencing again while singing along.

THE LION KING

2.5 OUT OF 5 STARS

Director Jon Favreau doesn’t change up one single thing from Disney’s arguably greatest classic animated movie, and who can blame him? Too bad it becomes a full-blown tragedy as there’s not an ounce of emotion whatsoever. As far as the special effects go – they’re extraordinary. If you told me those were all real animals, I’d whole-heartedly believe it. And Timon and Pumbaa are a comedic gift that keeps on giving. However, this rote reboot feels like a soulless safari with beloved songs and an all-star voice cast as our guide. The repetitive, feeble roar that echoes through every frame serves as a hefty reminder why some things should be left untouched. Forever.

PETE’S DRAGON

3.5 OUT OF 5 STARS

This Disney reimagining is routine, but still soars with an excellent cast and a big heart. Elliott is a wonder and his friendship with Pete is sincerely sweet and empathetic. David Lowery’s fanciful vision never outweighs his humanizing magic that all of us happily surrender to.

ALADDIN

1 OUT OF 5 STARS

Director Guy Ritchie nails the look of this flying carpet, lamp-rubbing world, but nothing else enlivens nor captures the magic of the original Aladdin. The songs are spiritless, and no matter how much charisma and charm Will Smith may have – none of it is strong enough to burst through his hideous blue genie. The Fresh Prince is in way over his head as his version is distinguishable, just in the worst way imaginable. As for the rest of the cast, they may look the part, but playing it is a much more difficult task altogether. Naomi Scott as Jasmyn is the exception and Marwan Kenzari’s Jafar is the worst. When it comes to these live-action remakes of their classic animated movies, this is a downright Disney disaster.

THE JUNGLE BOOK

4 OUT OF 5 STARS

Jon Favreau brings this classic adventure to extraordinary life with a stellar young Neel Sethi as Mowgli and an excellent voice cast to follow him. Engulfed in the danger while maintaining humor and good vibes, it’s a marvel to behold.

DUMBO 

2.5 OUT OF 5 STARS

Tim Burton’s latest Disney classic remake has gorgeous imagery and one adorable flying baby elephant. It has a very endearing story about family and a stellar ensemble cast with Danny DeVito being my personal favorite. However, you’re left with an empty feeling, as this fairytale’s spirit is missing some magic and not as wondrous as we all know it can be.

CINDERELLA

3 OUT OF 5 STARS

One of the first things you will notice is how delightfully wicked Cate Blanchett is as the stepmother. Even so, the movie belongs to Cinderella herself, Lily James. She captures the true essence of the titled character with not just her beauty and blonde hair, but by being naturally adoring and gracious. The movie’s ability to sweep you up into its whimsical world comes from her genuinely enchanting performance.

Director Kenneth Branagh keeps everything squeaky clean by taking absolutely no risks. Yet, he makes the film flourish with splendor and color. His deep-rooted background with Shakespeare soaks through every scene and unquestionably provides a romance in its storytelling. It’s innocent, harmless fun for families, but offers no surprises along the way. It flawlessly goes through the motions. Happily ever after. If it ain’t broke then why fix it, right?

Brandon Vick is a member of The Music City Film Critics’ Association, the resident film critic of the SoBros Network, and the star of The Vick’s Flicks Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @SirBrandonV and be sure to search #VicksFlicks for all of his latest movie reviews.

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