Good kid movies have something for everyone — enough fun and excitement to engage the young ones and enough intelligence and creativity to make things bearable for older audience members (the likely chaperones). According to critics’ reviews, the new film “The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure” is not one of those films.
The Oogieloves are the brainchild of Kenn Viselman, who has previously been involved with popularizing Teletubbies and Thomas the Tank Engine. The Times’ Mark Olsen describes the eponymous felt-covered protagonists as “a prefab construction meant to appear like a beloved set of characters." He adds: “While it’s tempting to call the plan cynical, the results are so ineffectual and disengaging that it may be better to call it just plain dumb." The story is cursory (the Oogieloves chase magic balloons, basically), and cameos from actors such as Chazz Palminteri, Jaime Pressly, Cary Elwes and Cloris Leachman leave them “all looking slightly confused and vaguely embarrassed.”
Loren King of the Boston Globe isn’t keen on “The Oogieloves” either, writing that “it’s like paying to watch a dumbed-down mash-up of the least creative parts of ‘Teletubbies,’ ‘Barney & Friends,’ and ‘Pee-wee’s Playhouse.’” King adds that the film’s planned interactive moments, during which kids are encouraged to stand up, dance and yell, “seemed more obligatory — you will have fun! — than spontaneous.” In the end, the film “seems so intent on getting toddlers to love it — and no doubt the merchandise that’s sure to follow — that such details as an engaging story line and originality seem to have gotten lost in Lovelyloveville.”
The New York Times’ A.O. Scott, apparently equally wearied by the Oogies, goes high-concept in his review and writes from the perspective of a 7-year-old girl (spelling errors and all). He, or she, has this to say: “Nobody is mean in this movie. They talk very loud. Theres parts where you dance or say cheers and rimes which made it noisy in the theter. Hallie’s dad said it was Rocky Horror for toddlers whatever that is. Me and Hallie are 7 and we thought it was for babies.” Poor Hallie’s dad is also described as having “texted Shoot Me Now” during the film.
Slant magazine’s Nick Schager doesn’t mince words either: He writes that “enduring this brainless kid’s film is akin to witnessing the end of the world, with the titular Goobie (Misty Miller), Toofie (Malerie Grady), and Zoozie (Stephanie Renz) … as the boisterous, brightly colored Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Insufferable barely begins to describe the pain delivered by this family adventure.” That’s just the first sentence; it gets worse from there.
Though among the minority, Entertainment Weekly’s Abby West offers a positive review. She writes, “Parents who have had to sit through a myriad of mindless kids movies will appreciate a chance for their kids to be themselves at the theater and to be silly right alongside them. On the whole, it can serve as a good introduction to the movie-going experience.”
West also adds that “the silly songs are sure to stick in your head.” But that might serve better as a warning than an endorsement.
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