Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Look Who's Talking (with an Aussie accent): Ozzie

Here at the Doll’s House, few actresses have a track record as consistently awesome as Joan Collins. Examine:

Playing a victim to mind controlling ants with dreams of world domination in Empire of the Ants

Changing the world as a former exotic dancer who spurns the advances of an angry dwarf and subsequently gives birth to a demon baby with telepathic skills of murder in I Don't Want To Be Born

And now, the Divine Miss C gives it her all as a Cruella DeVille inspired toy company CEO intent on cloning a legendary talking koala bear and selling his offspring for the Christmas season for today's entry into Animals Doing Human Stuff.

God bless us, everyone.

Quick Plot: A middle-aged comic book writer named Charlie Foster (side note: Australian for beer) narrates the story of his young neighbor Justin’s adventures with Ozzie, an adorably terrifying koala bear who was taught to speak by his aboriginal friend Ngundi. How did Ngundi teach Ozzie this ability? The movie makes no attempt to learn, possibly because such an attempt would then have to explain the bizarre time frame wherein Joan Collins’ father learned about the magical creature in the 1970s, despite the fact that Ngundi is about 11 years old and the film is set present day 2006. Granted, Australia IS operating below the equator, and all this could be reasoned out as some sort of Lost-inspired time jumping without the bloody noses and symbolically named characters.

Or we could just forget our troubles with a talking koala bear that FARTS!

Yes, huzzah indeed

Because let’s face it: as Here Comes Honey Boo Boo taught us (or someone I know; not like I EVER turn the channel to TLC’s weirdly fascinating Toddlers & Tiaras spinoff, I mean NO WAY), farts are the universal language that everyone speaks.

But back to this:

Collins plays Maxine Happy (who in a crazy twist of irony, is anything but), a greedy corporate monster growing tired of her inherited company’s lagging profits. No wonder why she dispatches two Wet Bandit clones down under to bring her this mythical marsupial. After all, old fashioned Teddy Ruxpin knockoffs aren’t going to keep a gal in Elizabeth Taylor diamonds forever in THIS economy.

After successfully snagging Ozzie from his super secret (but really easy to find) village lair, the two goons fly home first class sitting next to Justin, an uncharming little boy whose hot mom is a flight attendant. A wacky switcheroo causes Justin to head home to New Zeal—er, America…yeah…America—with Ozzie in tow. Now he can finally find the courage to defeat the cruel school bully with a slow motion food fight in the school cafeteria!

Ozzie tries very hard to be a cute little film. Whether the titular character is adorable or horrifying depends, I imagine, on how one feels about animatronic creatures that talk but don’t blink. To me, they’re terrifying but I’ve also been known to fear caterpillars, My Buddy, holding babies, characters in movies that talk while driving, and Troll.

Shut up. It's discomforting

Truth be told, Ozzie ultimately has a cheerful good spirit about it. The film tries to incorporate Charlie’s comic drawings in a random manner that calls to mind the recent zombie thriller Exit To Humanity (and no, I’m not trying to show off the fact that I’m probably one of the few people alive that can somehow work Exit To Humanity into a review of a kids film about a talking koala bear), though where both are ambitious, neither really does much for either film. Disney’s The Kid actor Spencer Breslin gives it his all, even if he seems wildly miscast. It’s hard to ever knock a child actor who is, more so than his or her adult counterparts, so much more a victim or benefactor of good casting and direction. Breslin (Abigail’s big brother) doesn’t work in the role, but I’m far too nice a critic to put all that blame on a tweenager.

Maxine’s evil plan is strangely fascinating, especially once the details roll out. Her head scientist has been training koala bears to eat candy and snacks so as to make the toys much more sellable. That’s rather sad. Oh, and she has successfully ordered her Beakman-esque minion to limit Ozzie clones’ lifespan to two years, the perfect buying cycle for the toy marketplace. Throw in the fact that Ozzie WILL DIE WHEN CLONED, as mentioned several times during the kidnapping, and you have something rather unsettling.

But worry not, dear young readers, for Ozzie is filled with hijinks! Bad men fall off ladders! Bullies try to kill outcasts! A child responsibly dons a helmet before embarking upon a 5 minute long bike chase—complete with the token ‘honest local workers trying to hang up a street banner only to be thwarted and possibly left for dead’ trope—then steals a jet ski and rides on for ANOTHER 5 minutes in a sequence that’s weirdly reminiscent of a recent Louie episode.

Only without the helmet. Irresponsible Emmy nominees…

High Notes
As the poor man’s Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ralf Moeller gets the film’s best subplot in the part of an oafish goon who loves comic books above all things. It even has a fairly cute resolution

Low Notes
This is a film about a talking koala bear. So why does the talking koala bear seem to have less lines than just about everyone else onscreen?

Friends To The End
When making a children's film, the last thing you want audiences to say is "kinda like in Child's Play." I said that quite a few times watching Ozzie, mostly because:

-What does the original 'toy' Ozzie say to his child friends? Hi. My name is Ozzie. Will you be my friend?” A reminder: What does the original 'toy' Good Guy say to his owners? "Hi. I'm ____ And I'm your friend to the end."

-When Chuc--I mean, Ozzie ends up on a flight home to the "U.S.A.," he comes face to face with his toy likeness and proceeds to bury the stuffed animal in a duffel bag while he enjoys the fresh air with his new boy pal. Oh yeah, kind of like how in Child's Play 2, Chucky finds an innocent plastic Good Guy...and buries him in the backyard so that his boy pal is his alone


and this:

Lessons Learned
Creative control is just a technicality

Koala bears dream in full color cartoons

Even the most remote and secret aboriginal village has fast Internet access

Also, boys who can teach koalas to speak

Bedtime for a typical 10 year old is 5PM

Whether you’re a perfectly trained mercenary or a band of fourth graders, few instruments are quite as confounding as the dreaded net

Montage Mania!
Strangely enough, said montage doesn’t involve the film’s talking koala bear. Nope, it’s just a rather gross cleaning-up-the-mess-my-pet-koala-bear-made-in-the-kitchen sequence, wherein Justin vacuums up popcorn, smears jelly back into the disgusting jar, and occasionally eats food left on the floor while a song about “cleaning up my room” plays too loud.

Soundtrack Strangeness
While it’s no blatant ripoff of Footloose, Ozzie does earn a few extra bites of eucalyptus by ending on an original song called, you know it, Ozzie. Sample lyrics (that I was able to understand:

First lost then found
Free and unbound
You make me talk
You taught me how to whirl (maybe: it got hard to hear amongst the harmony)

It hurts me sooooo
To let you goooooo
But you’re my friend
I know you’ll never end (?)

Sadly that’s all I got. But make no mistake: it’s totally going to be played at my wedding.

I know Justin's Middle Aged Best Friend! I applaud as well.

Standard Animals Doing Human Stuff Trope Checklist
New Kid In Town: X. Or Check. It SEEMED like he was new, so let’s just split the difference and say 1/2 point
Recent Dead Or Divorced Parent: Check
Montage: Check
New Friendship: Check

Potentially Inappropriate ‘Friendship’ Between Child & Unrelated Adult: Check
Evil Corporate Enemy: Check

Original Song: Check
Bully Comeuppance: Check
Small Town Values: X
Back to Nature Moral: Check
Overall Score: 8.5/10

We’ve got a formula! 

Depending on your taste, Ozzie is either an effective horror film, charming children’s adventure, boring 87 minutes of occasional crassness, or a dream come true. For those who have said, time and time again, why AREN’T there more films about koala bears making fake vomit sounds or kicking bad men in the groin? Ozzie is Citizen Kane with a cute accent. For anyone else, why are you still reading?

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