8/15/2008

Fly Me to the Moon (2008)






Director:
Ben Stassen

In the woefully misguided feature Fly Me to the Moon, when you mix NASA with talking insects, that’s one small step for man but one annoying subplot involving houseflies. Instead of highlighting houseflies in space, it should have been called Fly Me to footage of Frank Sinatra singing the best version of this song and let’s call it a day.

The promising premise sounded like one that couldn’t miss by using outer space and colorful child friendly animation to introduce children to one of the most important and groundbreaking achievements in American history by doing something equally cinematically groundbreaking-- namely, creating the first-ever animated film shot 100% in 3D.

The only problem is theoretically, the idea of 3D may sound amazing. However, in all reality when you add cumbersome glasses and regular theatrical screens that don’t meet what filmmaker Ben Stassen explained on the official website is the optimal design of taller instead of wider picture and “wall to wall and floor to ceiling screen” dimensions with a steep seating rake wherein viewers are “as close as possible” with nobody on the side or looking up, you have a cinematic misfire. In fact in my case, fortunately remembering to opt for contacts instead of glasses as I knew I’d be given a temporary party favor of retro 3D shades, I actually felt so disoriented by the overwhelming 3D that not only did my eyes hurt but I left the theatre with a whopping headache after its roughly 90 minute running time.

This being said, it was a valuable and admirable filmmaking experiment. And, similar to the way I’m always fascinated by what NASA will be trying next, I applaud any attempt to create something original. Admittedly, Stassen was definitely the right go-to man for this particular movie, being that the Belgian filmmaker first became acquainted with computer animation in the early ’90s. Afterwards, he became so enraptured by 3D that he’s worked with the medium for more than a decade as the cofounder of nWave Pictures. The company, which the website referred to as “a leading supplier of IMAX 3D films and 3D/4D special venue films,” offers a huge catalogue of several features they’ve completed involving animals and safaris with plans for a second fully 3D animated film about the perils of global warming entitled Around the World in 50 Years slated for a future release.



However, I can only hope that another writer is called in to augment the script instead of Stassen’s Moon collaborator Domonic Paris. Paris's awfully written Moon which relied too heavily on clich├ęs and juvenile humor as characters had to explain everything instead of showing it (always a kiss of death for children’s animation) began to elicit yawns from the press row at the screening in just the opening twenty minutes as one prominent member promptly fell asleep.

Upon its opening, we’re acquainted with three young flies, led by Nat McFly (as in “Think, McFly, think…” to steal a Back to the Future quote) who decide to tag along on Buzz Aldrin’s legendary Apollo 11 rocket mission in 1969. Featuring the voices of Christopher Lloyd, Kelly Ripa, Nicollette Sheridan, Tim Curry, Ed Begley Jr., Robert Patrick, and others, the film’s over-reliance on what they felt was a fascinating and relatable children’s plot involving the young insects bogs down the film which would have benefited greatly by focusing exclusively on the astronauts.


This is especially apparent as it seems both completely awkward and like some strange “surprise party” styled prank on the audience in the film’s conclusion when heroic Buzz Aldrin himself walks out during the end titles to discredit every single thing that had transpired in the fictitious animated adventure, most likely to distance NASA from what can truly be called a cinematic waste of “space.” So, in other words, grab a swatter and some bug spray as that'll teach kids to imagine that houseflies have "the right stuff."