Finally, an animated film that keeps its script intact and forward-moving with the magic and light shows as part of the story rather than the driver of the action. The storyline is simple: A Yeti eventually known as “Everest” (Joseph Izzo) is saved from re-capture after escaping from a zoo by Yi (Chloe Bennet). Soon she has accepted Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor) and his cousin, Peng (Albert Tsai), and off the three go to take Everest back to Mount Everest, his ancestral home. The film is co-produced by a Shanghai company, so it is no surprise that almost all the characters are Chinese as are all the settings.
Numerous barriers to the mission are included, of course, mostly Sarah Paulson’s “Dr. Zera,” a pseudo animal protector who isn’t, and Mr. Burnish (Eddie Izzard), the rich owner of Everest. They mount a well-mechanized army to re-capture the Yeti who is regarded as the personal property of Burnish.
The charm of the film is in Yi’s innocent devotion to Everest and his to her, and the musical aspects of both characters. Yi, mourning her dead father, who was a violinist, constantly plays the violin to herself and eventually creates duets with Everest and magic with him and solo. The magic never gets in the way of the plot, however, and only adds to the effects of the film. They are amplified by the magical settings of the Chinese countryside that serve to frame the progression of the trip back to Mount Everest.
Jin and Peng both serve as comic relief: Jin as a snobbish hipster who is constantly on his iPhone and Peng, a very short youngster who constantly dreams of sinking the winning basket in the NBA championship. This film is made for adults and their children and succeeds at both levels. Go with the magic and the music and the love the film inspires.
Judy Garland was not a pretty person in 1968, the next-to-last year of her life. Broke and already addicted to cigarettes, pills and booze, she agreed to do a farewell series of concerts in London. She left behind her two children, Joe and Lorna Luft.
Throughout the film, war is waged over the custody of the children between Garland and her husband, Sid Luft. Renée Zellweger as Judy had the unenviable job of recreating the famous star and singing her hits. I’ll admit astonishment at how well she managed the latter test, handicapped as she was by Garland’s distracted personality at that time of her life.
The pace of the film is quite slow, and Zellweger’s performance therefore may seem more mannered than it actually is. As far as capturing the last, desperate months of the legend’s life, this seems to be dead-on.
In flashbacks, we see Garland’s life before and leading up to “The Wizard of Oz.” It is a disturbing picture of continuing diet abuse by Louis B. Mayer’s assigned “matron,” tight supervision of her entire life by the studio—“Mickey? Are we dating?” she plaintively asks lunchmate Mickey Rooney. (The answer was “no”—it was all organized by MGM.) She rebels only once, jumps into a pool while in costume and makeup, ruining a take. She pays for that in a session with Mayer who, the film hints, sexually abused her.
Starting very young, she slips into a pattern of sleeplessness, dependence on drugs to get up and go to sleep, and booze to lubricate her life in between. She is kept under fairly tight control in London by Rosalyn Wilder (Jessie Buckley) who gives a sterling performance. She hooks up with two gay men in London for a pathetic scrambled egg dinner that she cooks as an exhibit of her normality, yet she has to remind us: “I’m only Judy Garland for an hour a night.” Her final days are not filmed, fortunately. The bathos can only be spread so far. The audience we saw the film with, overwhelmingly over 50 white men, was rapt in the story and with good reason—it is a compelling and tragic tale.
It just took too long to tell.