As studios get bigger, it always seems like they lose their identity. Their stories become more watered down and basic in an attempt to appeal to a larger demographic, and it loses what made it special in the first place. I’m worried that that is going to happen with Cartoon Saloon. Their Irish Mythology trilogy is brilliant – full of life, color, intricate designs, and backgrounds, and they all have their own strong identity.
Their latest movie, My Father’s Dragon, is based on the children’s book of the same name. Is none of that. It’s just another generic, boy and his creature fantasy coming-of-age film. It was honestly, really boring.
Elmer and his mother are forced to move to Nevergreen City after their small-town general store forecloses. Elmer is miserable in his new apartment until he meets a talking cat who sends him on a quest to Wild Island. There he must free the dragon Boris from servitude – and in return, Elmer hopes he can use Boris to raise the funds for a new shop.
But first, he and Boris must find a way to stop the island from sinking into the sea.
It’s Cartoon Saloon, so of course the art style is beautiful but at the same time, it feels more simplistic and childish than their other films. But it creates a vibrant, vivid storybook world that suits the tone of the movie well. It’s a very nice movie to look at. And honestly, that’s probably the nicest thing I can say about My Father’s Dragon.
Everything aside from the art style of the movie is so generic. It’s not bad – but it doesn’t try anything new or exciting. It’s just boring.
I could predict pretty much every plot point, beat for beat and it was so formulaic, that I really couldn’t form an attachment to any of the characters. And I really didn’t buy Elmer and Boris’ relationship development. I didn’t buy the fact that they had become dear friends, with the tragedy being that they could never see each other again.
And the movie never gives a reason as to why Boris couldn’t visit. Like he’s a dragon, he can fly. I get that he wants to return home and see his family after, goodness knows how many years of servitude, but like — give me something.
I never felt attached to any of the characters. They each had one, maybe two traits that defined them – and nobody really changed all that much. I don’t even totally understand what Elmer’s arc is supposed to be.
He’s upset about moving to a new city and wants to help his mom open a store. To raise the money, a random talking cat convinces him to free a dragon, saying that the dragon will owe him a favor. The idea is that Elmer becomes less selfish – putting others’ desires over his own…but I didn’t really see that theme playing out.
Also, there’s a narrator. She only voices some of the intro – basically giving away the plot in the first few minutes and giving a small monologue at the end. She only exists so the title My Father’s Dragon makes sense. It might be a personal thing, but I hate unnecessary narrators. The least they could have done was show a grown-up Elmer with his daughter telling the story or the daughter writing a book.
That would have justified it – somewhat. But the narration doesn’t add anything to the movie. It just kind of states the obvious at the beginning, something that your average child viewer could still figure out,
Maybe that’s an issue with growing older…I didn’t like a single character in this film and I didn’t see the childhood wonder. I can kind of see why kids would like it and it’s tolerable for adults, but it’s just soooooooo boring.
Maybe the book was better? There’s definitely some whimsy to the story – but the movie never fully embraces it.
And that’s the scoop.
Grade: C –
Based on My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannet
Release Year: 2022
Length: 99 minutes
Director: Nora Twomey
Screenplay: Meg LeFauve
Story by: Meg LeFauve, John Morgan