Film Review: HENCHMEN (USA/Canada 2018)

In a world of super-villains, evil schemes and global domination, someone has to take out the trash. Welcome to the world of Henchmen, third class. When a fresh-faced new recruit joins the … See full summary »


Adam Wood


Bobby Henwood (additional writing), Jay D. Waxman | 1 more credit »


HENCHMEN, based on the short feature HENCHMEN III: SUITED by writer/director Adam Wood is now a full blown feature length Canadian/American co-production.  The film is produced by Vancouver’s (Burnaby) Bron Studios in association with CW Media Finance.  In the world of dog eat dog or animation studios eat animation studios industry it must be a tough try for Bron Studios competing with studios like Disney, Sony, Illumination and even Japan’s Ghibli Studios and Britain’s Aardvark Studios.

The film begins in the real world where a student on the way to school on a school bus fantasies while reading a comic book.  He hates it when the superheroes win (even though in the comic, they are ridiculous as girly twins) over awesome villains like Dr. Shark Hands.  As most lonely individuals do, they lean towards the dark side.  Lester (voiced by TV’s SILICON VALLEY and the film ENTANGLEMENT) dreams of becoming a super villain called The Orphan which he invents himself.  The orphan has no family, no friends, no one.  He waits to become of age to become an apprenticeship villain in Super Villain City where he hopes to become a fellow henchman.

.A fallen henchman named Hank (James Marsden) leads a team of Lester and two others, called the “Union of Evil”, who must prevent Baron Blackout (Alfred Molina) from dominating the world. The crew are assigned to the Vault of Villainy, where Lester accidentally steals the ultimate weapon.

The twist in the genre of bad against good is a good distraction but one soon realizes that good has to overcome evil as Lester eventually saves the world against Baron Blackout.

The film’s humour is funny but also silly at times.  “Any ‘baddie’ home?” and the constant rendering of the villain’s manic laughter on the soundtrack are examples.  The funniest segment is the one with the villain in a tub out to destroy the good guys with his molten radioactive cheese, his mouth always overflowing with guck.  Other sequences contain slapstick antics, but most come across as humourless in its execution.  Think JOHNNY ENGLISH STRIKES AGAIN.

The animation is not bad but not of the Pixar/Disney calibre, looking like something out of the old Tex Avery cartoons.  HENCHMEN is comic book fare which means the animators need not go all out for realism like animating water, fire and shadows.

HENCHMEN like the TOY STORY films are targeted at male kids.  The film clearly lacks female content.  For one, there is only one female in the cast – that of Jane Krakowski as Jane.  The story also contains no romantic element.

One cannot help but notice that Bron Studios and Wood with his crew of animators and artists have put in super effort and worked very hard for their animated feature HENCHMEN.  The project itself was started in 2015 and took 4 years before completion.  But unfortunately the results are mediocre. 


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Film Review: CARS 3 (USA 2017)

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cars 3Lightning McQueen sets out to prove to a new generation of racers that he’s still the best race car in the world.

Director: Brian Fee

Stars: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Chris Cooper, Nathan Fillion, Armie Hammer

Review by Gilbert Seah

CARS 3 is the debut animated feature by Brian Fee, the storyboard artist of the other two CARS films and a few other Disney features. As this is a film that Fee has something to prove, the animation is as expected top-notch, as in all the Disney/Pixar films.

The trailer of CARS 3 which shows racing car Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) wiping out on a banked racetrack with a fade to black and voiceover promising that things will be different, many will be expecting a blacker sequel and one that would prove more interesting than the other two trivial CARS films. Not so. The terrible crash is just the catalyst for McQueen to want to race again to prove himself. So, there is the usual predictable stuff such as: “You have it in you.” You can prove yourself.” etc. etc. So, all hopes for a blacker CARS film are torn to bits.

The film features a next generation of race cars that includes Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer). The cars in the film begin questioning if the famous Lightning McQueen will throw in the towel after he endured a terrible crash. McQueen’s sponsor, Rust-eze, is bought by Sterling (Nathan Fillion), a car who thinks McQueen cannot maintain his image by racing. Lightning asks for a chance to race in the Florida 500 and begins to train with race technician Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), who’s always had her own racing dreams. That pretty sums up a plot that not many can get excited with.

The same problem of animation of cars till exists in all the CARS franchise. Cars are inanimate objects with no limbs nor faces. So it is more difficult to animate cars – to give them expressions and make them distinguishable one from another. A tactic is of course, as used by the animators, is to make the colours bright and different or have different car types on display such as tow trucks.

It is also difficult to get excited over one cartoon car wining a race against another cartoon car. Or for one cartoon car to fall in love with another or feel anything towards a jealous car.

CARS undoubtedly has good animation. The audience can feel the thunder of the race as the audience is given a drivers-look of a race. But the film lacks the humour (goofy or otherwise) and inventiveness that help films like the recent CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS and BOSS BABY become memorable.
THE CARS films have not made the Studios that much money compared to the other animated features. But more than a fair income comes from the share of the toy franchise. So, do not expect much from CARS 3. For it is he same old stuff. Unless one is interested in the animation process, CARS 3 is nothing more than one dull drag of a race.

But wait! There is a short animated feature called LOU preceding CARS. It involves a schoolyard bully who learns that being nice conquers all. The largely silent LOU is smart, well animated, inventive and funny. It subtly teaches kids that bullying is just not cool. Rating for LOU: ****



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