Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1989)
Plot: Nemo is a little boy who wants to go to the circus, but his parents are unable to take him because they're too busy. Later that night, Nemo imitates sleepwalking in an attempt to sneak some pie away against his promise to his mother only to be caught. Upon falling asleep that night, he is approached by figures from the circus parade lead by Professor Genius who invite him to Slumberland where the king gives Nemo a mission to be the playmate of Princess Camille and to be made prince of Slumberland on the condition that he must never open the door that frees the Nightmare King. But a troublemaker named Flip tricks Nemo into opening the door and thus the Nightmare King steals King Morpheus away, so it's up to Nemo, Professor Genius, Flip, and Camille to go into Nightmare Land to try to rescue King Morpheus.
The reason that I watched this movie recently is because I watched the last third of it when I was a kid and I liked it so much that I wanted to see the entire movie ever since. And at the time, why wouldn't I have wanted that? An animated movie with far off fantasy places, colorful supporting characters, creative creatures, saving a world from a terrible, giant, evil villain, a romance with a princess, and it's all happening to a boy around my age at the time? Yes, please! The problem apart from the fact that movies weren't watchable on the Internet yet back then was that I never learned what was the name of the movie until I was an adult and found that Doug Walker made a Nostalgia Critic review for it and ...yeah, that's as concerning as it sounds. Apparently, this is a movie that took many years to make with several people either being offered to direct the film but declined or briefly worked on the film but left the project due to artistic differences including George Lucas, Chuck Jones, and even Hayao Miyazaki, who would later declare that working on the project was the worst experience he had ever been through. The film continued to go through different directors and screenwriters until it was finally put together in 1989.
So with all this information in mind and after finally watching the movie from beginning to end, how is Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland? Well...there's some good things in it, but I think it definitely needed another rewrite or two. While most of the story is easy to follow, there are a couple aspects to the world building that don't really add up. The biggest example comes from whenever Nemo is going from the dream world to the real world. The first time he's dreaming, there's nothing happening story wise, just Nemo having a nightmare where his bed is flying but then he's pursued by a locomotive. I guess it establishes how anything can happen in the dream world, but it doesn't add much to the story. Then there are moments when Nemo wakes up from the dream world as the story does go on but then the story just continues shortly after he's back in bed indicating that he's still dreaming, making all the moments where he's back in bed completely pointless. They could have just written that he fainted or was knocked unconscious between scenes or something and you would have lost nothing. The moral of the story is also particularly lame, but I'll get to that when I talk about Nemo himself.
A lot of the animation is nice to look at when the movie is not on the kingdom of Slumberland. The kingdom itself looks way too bright and kid friendly that I think I would've disliked even when I was a kid. But that aside, just about everything else with the animation is good. The nightmare with the locomotive is pointless in terms of plot, but it looks great visually. Some of the rooms inside the castle like Princess Camille's room look nice, and the Nightmare King has a really cool, menacing design.
The songs don't do a thing for me at all. Granted, there's only three real musical numbers in the entire film, but they're nothing special. Just one song about how wonderful Slumberland is, a song about Nemo's duties as a prince and then one about the shapeshifting goblins and that's it.
The supporting characters are...serviceable at best. King Morpheus is a little too jolly and childish most of the time, Professor Genius is your typical stick to the rules guy, and the moments with the Princess Camille...kind of work for a romance, but not for a particularly memorable one. Flip is a little annoying and it's crazy to believe he's voiced my Mickey Rooney. The goblins have cool designs, but they don't stand out as memorable characters. The Nightmare King has a cool intimidating presence, but his voice doesn't quite fit.
As for Nemo himself... I want to like him because he's the hero and everything, but he is just one uninteresting protagonist. When it's all said and done, there isn't anything really interesting about him and some of his dialogue is almost nothing but saying "huh?" or "wow!" or "oh no!" and so on. But the most allotting aspect about us is how his adventures in his dreams actually connect over his trying to steal the pie that he promised his mom not to touch. I'm really not kidding here. He's going on a big adventure that mostly regrets his attempt to steal pie...that's really dumb. I guess that's something that would be relatable back in 1905, but today, it is pretty lame that your child hero is going on a grand adventure just to learn something that someone half Nemo's age should learn.
So with all this negative talk about the movie, is there anything genuinely good? Well...I still enjoy the climax. Yeah, the characters are not as likable as I hoped they would be, but it's still cool to watch Nemo encounter creatures like the goblins and giant bats, fight a giant powerful force of evil like the Nightmare King and how it ends after that (aspects like bringing up the pie again put aside.)
And that's my review for Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland. When it's just being a fantasy adventure film like I wanted it to be, I still enjoy it personally, but the supporting characters were just okay, the songs are forgettable, the story needed a little more work and Nemo himself is an uninteresting protagonist. I'm glad I got to see the full movie after wanting to for so many years, but it's a shame how the process of creating it alone was such a mess that even one of my favorite directors despised taking any part in it.