Review: ‘The Inventor’ (2023), starring the voices of Stephen Fry, Daisy Ridley, Marion Cotillard, Gauthier Battoue and Matt Berry

December 17, 2023

by Carla Hay

King Francis I (voiced by Gauthier Battoue), Leonardo Da Vinci (voiced by Stephen Fry), Princess Marguerite (voiced by Daisy Ridley) and Louise de Savoy (voiced by Marion Cotillard) in “The Inventor” (Photo courtesy of Curiosity Studio/Blue Fox Entertainment)

“The Inventor” (2023)

Directed by Jim Capobianco; co-directed by Pierre-Luc Granjon

Culture Representation: Taking place in Italy and in France, in the 1500s, the animated film “The Inventor” features a cast of all-white cast characters representing the working-class, middle-class and royalty.

Culture Clash: Renowned artist Leonardo Da Vinci tries to find acceptance as an inventor at a time when science and scientific inventions were considered religious blasphemy. 

Culture Audience: “The Inventor” will appeal primarily to people interested in watching a pleasantly simple history-based animated movie that uses stop-motion and 2-D animation.

King Francis I (voiced by Gauthier Battoue) in “The Inventor” (Photo courtesy of Curiosity Studio/Blue Fox Entertainment)

“The Inventor” doesn’t do anything groundbreaking in animation, but it’s a charming option for viewers who want to see an adventure story about Leonardo da Vinci. The movie has positive messages about reaching for our best potential. The visuals (a combination of stop-motion animation and 2-D animation) are the opposite of slick and overly intricate, giving the movie a traditional look that is o. The voice performances are also well-cast.

Directed by Jim Capobianco and co-directed by Pierre-Luc Granjon, “The Inventor” takes place in the 1500s. The movie begins in 1516 in the Italian capital of Rome, where famous painter Leonardo DaVinci (voiced by Stephen Fry) shows fellow painter Francesco Melzi (voiced by Angelino Sandri) his new invention: a telescope. Leonardo wants more out of his life than just being known as an artist. He also wants to be known as a polymath: someone who has many different skills.

Leonardo has an avid interest in science. However, Pope Leo X (voiced by Matt Berry) thinks science is religious blasphemy. The pope wants Leonardo to stick to only painting chapels and doing other paintings.. Leonardo resists this command.

As a compromise, Pope Leo X tells Leonardo: “I command that you create a bauble, a gift that will cement the peace between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of France. If you are successful, I shall allow you to continue your studies. However, [if you fail], you will find you and your curiosity on the heretics’ pile.

It just so happens that in France, King Francis I (voiced by Gauthier Battoue) has invited Leonard to become France’s first person to be a combination architect/painter/engineer for the royal court. Leonardo is introduced to King Francis’ mother Louise de Savoy (voiced by Marion Cotillard) and King Francis’ sister Marguerite (voiced by Daisy Ridley), who is often the target of Francis’ sexist attitude. The king’s architect Il Boccador (voiced by Max Baumgarten) and the king’s engineer Pierre Nepveu (voiced by Natalie Palamides) greatly admire Leonardo and his vision for creating canals, gallerias and gardens.

However, King Francis thinks the plans are too expensive and complicated. When Marguerite says that Leonardo’s ideas are great, King Francis is dismissive when he tells her: “If only you were permitted to wear britches, you’d be every bit my equal.” Marguerite isn’t the type to accept this insult and doesn’t hesitate to try to prove her brother Francis wrong.

Meanwhile, “The Inventor” has some debate about faith versus science, and if they can co-exist in the same outlook on life. Marguerite says to Leonardo: “Faith makes all things possible. Don’t you agree?”

Leonardo replies, “All I know is that blind faith cannot prove the existence of the soul. Using the power of reason, however, observation, and experiment, I endeavor to find that soul … And when I find this immortal soul, I hope people share its answers about life.”

All of this existential talk makes “The Inventor” an animated film that’s geared to people who are at least 8 years old. Children young than 8 will enjoy the visuals but might not fully understand the messages behind the film. Overall, “The Inventor” is enjoyable for what it is but it’s not a classic film that will influence generations of viewers.

Blue Fox Entertainment released “The Inventor” in U.S. cinemas on September 15, 2023. The movie was released on digital and VOD on November 7, 2023.

Review: ‘The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run,’ starring the voices of Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Matt Berry, Clancy Brown, Rodger Bumpass, Carolyn Lawrence and Mr. Lawrence

March 3, 2021

by Carla Hay

Pictured clockwise, from left to right: Sandy Cheeks (voiced by Carolyn Lawrence), Patrick Star (voiced by Bill Fagerbakke), Plankton (voiced by Doug Lawrence), SpongeBob (voiced by Tom Kenny), Gary (on top of SpongeBob’s head) and Mr. Krabs (voiced by Clancy Brown) in “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” (Image courtesy of Paramount Animation)

“The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run”

Directed by Tim Hill

Culture Representation: Taking place in the fictional, underwater places of Bikini Bottom and the Lost City of Atlantic City, the live-action/animated film “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” features a predominantly white voice cast (with some African Americans, Asians and Latinos) in a comedic adventure story that’s part of the SpongeBob SquarePants franchise.

Culture Clash: SpongeBob SquarePants and his neighbor Patrick Star go on a mission to rescue SpongeBob’s best friend/pet snail Gary, which is being held captive by an egotistical overlord named King Poseidon.

Culture Audience: “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the SpongeBob SquarePants franchise and people who like family-friendly animation that can be enjoyed by various generations.

King Poseidon (voiced by Matt Berry) in “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” (Image courtesy of Paramount Animation

As the first computer-generated imagery (CGI) animated movie in the SpongeBob SquarePants franchise, “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” is an exuberant and eye-catching adventure that makes up for some predictable moments with just enough unexpected zaniness to make it worth watching for anyone who appreciates earnestly goofy animation. It’s not necessary to see any episodes of the long-running Nickelodeon animated series “SpongeBob SquarePants” or its spinoff movies (“Sponge on the Run” is the third one in the film series) to enjoy the movie, although it certainly provides some better context for some of the relationships in the movie.

“The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” has several scenes that are flashbacks to some of the characters’ childhoods. It’s an obvious promotion for “Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years,” the prequel spinoff “SpongeBob” TV series that launches on Paramount+ (formerly known as CBS All Access) on the same day that “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” is available on the streaming service. “Kamp Koral” focuses on what some of the main characters did as children at Kamp Koral, and “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” gives a sense of what people can get expect from this spinoff TV series.

Written and directed by Tim Hill, “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” is the first “SpongeBob” movie to be released since the 2018 death of SpongeBob SquarePants creator Stephen Hillenburg, who died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at the age of 57. The movie has a dedication to Hillenburg before the end credits. Compared to 2004’s “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” and 2015’s “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water,” there’s a slightly wackier vibe to “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run,” thanks in large part to an amusing featured role from Keanu Reeves.

Things in the underwater city of Bikini Bottom are what SpongeBob fans can expect: SpongeBob SquarePants (voiced by Tom Kenny), the cheerfully upbeat sponge protagonist, is still working as a fry cook at a fast-food restaurant called the Krusty Krab, which is owned by his cranky Scottish boss Mr. Krabs (voiced by Clancy Brown). The pessimistic Squidward Tentacles (voiced by Rodger Bumpass) also works at the Krusty Krab. The tiny green copepod named Plankton (voiced by Mr. Lawrence) and his computer wife Karen (played by Jill Talley) are still scheming to get the secret recipe formula for the Kristy Krab’s Krabby Patty burgers, in order to boost Plankton and Karen’s failing rival restaurant the Chum Bucket.

This time, there’s a new challenge: SpongeBob’s best friend/pet snail Gary (also voiced by Kenny, who makes Gary sound like a cat) is stolen by Plankton, who gives Gary to the vain and tyrannical King Poseidon (voiced by Matt Berry) because the king uses snail slime to keep his face looking youthful. King Poseidon ran out of snails and offered a reward to anyone who could provide him with a useful snail. Plankton sees that offer as an opportunity to try to get in the king’s good graces and get revenge on SpongeBob. King Poseidon lives at Poseidon Palace, which is located in the Lost City of Atlantic City.

What follows is a madcap trek that involves SpongeBob and his amiable starfish neighbor Patrick Star (voiced by Bill Fagerbakke) going on a mission to find and rescue Gary. Along the way, they end up in a Western ghost town, where they have some off-the-wall encounters with flesh-eating zombie pirates (portrayed by live actors), a rapping gambler (played by Snoop Dogg) and a villainous zombie cowboy called El Diablo (played by Danny Trejo). But some of the funniest scenes in the movie are with a giant, advice-giving tumbleweed named Sage that rolls into SpongeBob and Patrick’s lives when they first arrive in the ghost town. Sage is a tumbleweed with a talking head of Reeves inside the center.

Also part of these antics is a new automated computer robot named Otto (voiced by Awkwafina), which the brainy squirrel Sandy Cheeks (voiced by Carolyn Lawrence) has given as a gift to Mr. Krabs. However, Mr. Krabs quickly gets annoyed with Otto and throws the robot away. Otto ends up becoming a crucial part of how the story develops.

The movie also has some cameos of celebrities playing a version of themselves as underwater animated characters that work at a nightclub in the Lost City of Atlantic City. Tiffany Haddish appears briefly on stage as a wisecracking fish that’s a stand-up comedian named Tiffany Haddock. Jazz saxophonist Kenny G plays a plant called Kelpy G, which does a smooth jazz version of “My Heart Will Go On,” the theme from the 1997 movie “Titanic.” It’s a somewhat subversive song choice, considering “Titanic” is a disaster movie where most of the characters end up drowning in the ocean.

There are some other endearingly oddball and unexpected choices in the movie, such as a criminal trial that takes place at the nightclub. The King Poseidon character plays with masculine and feminine stereotypes, by blurring the lines between obsessions with machismo and obsessions with beauty products. It’s why King Poseidon is not a typical villain in an animated film.

“The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” clearly knows its audience well, since it’s made for kids as well as adults. “SpongeBob SquarePants” has been on the air since 1999; therefore, many of the kids who grew up watching the show now have children of their own. It explains the inclusion of Reeves, Snoop Dogg, Kenny G and Danny Trejo as cameos, since these stars’ pop culture significance have a different meaning to people who are old enough remember the 1990s and early 2000s.

The movie’s very retro music soundtrack is definitely geared more to adults, with rock and pop tunes from the late 20th century, such as Foghat’s “Slow Ride,” Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” and Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” Weezer has two songs on the soundtrack: “It’s Always Summer in Bikini Bottom” and a cover version of a-ha’s “Take on Me” and the original song Also on the soundtrack is the Flaming Lips’ “Snail: I’m Avail.”

Mikros did the movie’s vivid CGI and animation, which is not as outstanding as a Pixar movie, but it’s better than most CGI animated films. Writer/director Hill moves things along at a brisk-enough pace, even though it’s very easy to know how the movie is going to end. “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” imparts a lot of positive messages of self-acceptance, but the characters have enough foibles and flaws to make the jokes relatable to viewers. Watch this movie if you like animated films and you’re up for an energetic diversion that might make you want more “SpongeBob” movies, regardless of how familiar or unfamiliar you might be with the franchise.

Paramount Pictures’ Paramount Animation and Nickelodeon Movies will release “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” on Paramount+ on March 4, 2021, the same date that Paramount Home Entertainment releases the movie on VOD. The movie was released in Canada in 2020.

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