It’s interesting that two of the most enjoyable films this year are both animated. The first is Toy Story 3. We all know how awful sequels can be, and, in fact, I didn’t like Toy Story 2 all that much. But Pixar defied the sequel slump with this one.
Andy has grown up and is going to college. From a toy’s point of view, that’s tantamount to death because Andy has to clean out his room, and what is he going to do with all that junk anyway? The last few remaining toys barely miss the garbage truck and get sent, by accident, to the local day care instead. Sounds great for a toy, right? They’ll get played with every day forever. But things are not as they seem at the day care, and our crew of toys is put on the fast track to an early death. Will they be able to escape when the other toys there are ruled mob-style by a big pink teddy bear that smells of strawberries?
I laughed and cried and cheered in this movie. There are hilarious scenes featuring Barbie and a Ken who’s gone over to the dark side. More gut busters with Buzz Lightyear when he’s put into Spanish mode and Mr. Potato Head who has powers we never would have suspected.
But the movie goes beyond toys and action. It’s not just a cartoon. It’s about loyalty and friendship and heroics and love and family. Because my oldest will be leaving the nest next year, the final scenes carried extra power for me. But I think they will be effective for almost anyone because Pixar does in this movie what all great art does—it reaches into themes we all share. And in that moment, we identify so strongly with the characters that their situation becomes our own.
How to Train Your Dragon
Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon, based on the novel by Cressida Cowell, is the movie I should have seen for my birthday. Instead, we went to the mind-numbing Clash of Titans. I still cringe at some of the massive plot holes in that one, even though Medusa rocked. Which only proves, once again, that cool effects can’t save a bad story. How to Train Your Dragon, on the other hand, delivers cool monsters, but never once did the writers make the mistake of thinking that cool monsters is what the story was about.
The movie is about a young Viking named Hiccup who wants to be accepted, wants to become one of the burly defenders of his city, like his dad, Stoik the Vast. But Hiccup isn’t brawny. However, he is resourceful. And during a dragon attack, he brings down a mysterious Night Fury dragon with his invention. However, when he finds the dragon, he can’t bring himself to kill it. Instead, Hiccup and the dragon begin a friendship. But will Hiccup be able to save the dragon that everyone wants to kill? Will the Vikings be able to see the truth about the dragons before they’re destroyed? Most importantly, will Stoik be able to accept his son?
I enjoyed the superb animation in this story as well as the dragons. But it was the characters and humor that made this movie so good. There’s Stoik who just can’t relate to his son, but tries to bond with a very interesting use of his dead wife’s brassier, Hiccup, the son, with his dry wit, and Gobber, a peg-leg family friend who has some of the best lines in the movie.
Go see this show. You’ll laugh, and then you’ll wish you had a dragon of your own.
Rumbi Island Grill
The Rumbi Island Grill is a restaurant chain that started in Salt Lake City in 2000. They serve fast, casual tropical food at incredibly good prices. My favorite is their rice bowl. It comes with your choice of sauce, rice, and meat with sautéed vegetables. In the Netherlands I learned to love Indonesian food and the spicy-sweet peanut sauce that often accompanied it, which is why I can’t get enough of the Bali Island bowl with brown rice and shrimp. You might find you love the sauce so much you ask for two servings to pour over your bowl (oh, and add a dash of the hot sauce). The food’s great, but they’ve paid attention to the Hawaiian atmosphere as well. So even though it’s fast food (you order and they bring it out to you), you feel like you’re sitting in a casual dining restaurant.
I always look for a Rumbi when I travel down to Salt Lake City or Provo. Now I don’t have to go so far–a restaurant has opened up in Logan right across from the Wal-Mart on the south end of town! I took Nellie there recently. The staff was friendly and the food was delicious–just what I’d come to expect.
Now all we need is a Cheesecake Factory!