Posted by: Mad Ness Monster | 06/30/2009

“ShapeShifter” review

(8/13/08)

See, the title doesn’t even suggest the half of it. This is why I secretly love Moonbeam movies.I fear this may be our last movie from dear beloved Moonbeam. (Technically, this is from another family-friendly branch of Full Moon Entertainment called Pulsepounders, but I’m not going to nitpick and neither should you.) The company is intrinsically associated with VHS, and that is fast becoming a lost technology. It’s weird, looking back, how many things we couldn’t live without as kids are now obsolete or nearly so.
Anyway, I found this used video for sale and picked it out for two bucks. I figured, from the title and cover art, that it would be another Animorphs cash-in. Only this time, it would be in movie form, and more importantly in Moonbeam-quality-movie form.
How wrong I was.
But, after thinking about it a bit, not really.
Consider we’re talking about a book series that went down some seriously weird avenues in Plot Complication Land. (Check Wikipedia for summaries, though it may be enough to say that eventually a reality-altering Trickster alien, time travel, and shrink rays are involved.  In a series that already involved brain-slugs, shapeshifters, and telepathic stalk-eyed Centaurs.) Well this here movie has as many ridiculous plot twists as Animorphs did over the years — in the space of only ninety minutes.
Eventually, an underground city of midgets is involved. Magical midgets. And a magical instrument made of glass that makes trippy electronic-sounding music.

The Best Parts:
Before the movie – The Full Moon trailer park! How I will miss it so.
1 minute in – OK, those awesomely bad trailers have me pumped. This had better be awesomely bad too.
Aw, look. The little boy just found a crappy special effect.
3 minutes in – Wheel!
6 minutes in – Wait, spies? The hell?
9 minutes in – I see I need to decide what the cutoff age for the Jake Lloyd award must be.
10 minutes in – Run you idiot! Or hide. Hiding works.
12 minutes in – This is proving to be a little more involved than I expected.
15 minutes in – Creepy.
19 minutes in – His family’s safety is only worth twenty dollars?
21 minutes in – Oh Moonbeam and your incredibly obvious Meet Cutes.
23 minutes in – This is neither the crowd nor the venue I immediately associate with Bjork.
24 minutes in – Wow, these hobos have the power of trippy electronic-sounding music and terrible special effects.
26 minutes in – Have I mentioned that this movie is way more complicated than I’d assumed?
29 minutes in – Dude…
32 minutes in – Super-Special-Awesome Transformation Sequence GO!!!
By the way, this is one of those movies where you can tell every one of the animals was one of the pets of somebody working on the movie.
34 minutes in – OK, I can think of over a dozen different ways Alex could use his newfound trippy magic to save the day. Too bad he’s either unimaginative, or reluctant to use his powers for whatever b.s. reason, or -most likely of all- the budget is too damn small.
37 minutes in – Why not turn into Chuck Norris then?
40 minutes in – Maybe transform into something that CAN get away?
Wait, he actually did!?! My mind is blown!
41 minutes in – “And brother when it disintegrates, it disintegrates!”
42 minutes in – “Weeee! Flying! Yaaaaaay!!!”
43 minutes in – Well, duh, turn into something small and boring enough not to be noticed by the guards. Like a sparrow. Then sneak inside, free your family, and then turn into something that is big enough for them to ride on as you barrel-ass your way out, tossing foes to the side along the way. Like a rhinoceros or (if there is room) an elephant. Hell, even a big sheep can do a lot of damage if there isn’t enough room. OR, if you can, be a big, badass kaiju monster and really f___ stuff up for the villains!
I am way, WAY too genre-savvy for these movies. :/
44 minutes in – Wow. Psy-yi-yi... duck?
48 minutes in – Man, it’s like the writer has a “making everything way too complicated” fetish.
50 minutes in – Well, I guess not using your powers *at all* and then running smack into the psycho witch is an option too. >:/
54 minutes in – She can see trippy colors to the music too! So why isn’t she magical?
55 minutes in – Hey, the meteor from way back in the prologue IS important!
56 minutes in – “OWWWWWWW!!!!!!!”
57 minutes in – “I NEED SH**TY SPECIAL EFFECT TRANSFORMATION POWER NOW!!!”
1 hour, 3 minutes in – Man, the little chirping sparrows in the background really ruin the drama.
1 hour, 4 minutes in – What in the eff?
1 hour, 5 minutes in – No, seriously, what in the eff? Just when I think this plot can’t get any more complicated, it does.
1 hour, 7 minutes in – Because of your magical trippy transformation powers, you idiot!
1 hour, 9 minutes in – “I will see if I can get this accomplished without using any of my magical trippy transformation powers at all! And because I WANT to, not because we’ve already blown all the special effects money!”
1 hour, 12 minutes in – “My CABBAGES!!!”
1 hour, 13 minutes in – Personally, I’d turn into an Ultrasaurus and stomp on his ass a few dozen times. But that’s just me. Let’s see what Alex does.
1 hour, 14 minutes in – I guess turning him into a bug and explicitly NOT stomping on him is an option too.
1 hour, 16 minutes in – What. The. Eff!?!
1 hour, 18 minutes in – “There is only one more thing I must do before we leave. I must defeat the witch. Then we can go. Unless the writers decide to throw more insane crap in my way, but that’d just be silly.”
1 hour, 20 minutes in – “Oh, dammit!!!”
1 hour, 23 minutes in – Awww, yeee-ah! Shapeshifter Showdown! Bring it!!! Hell yeah!!!
1 hour, 25 minutes in – I do not know WHAT that was that just happened now (The Power of Trippy Electronic-Sounding Music?) But it was no Shapeshifter Showdown. 😡
1 hour, 28 minutes in – And… that’s it? Really? The writer had nothing else up his sleeve?

Classic Lines of Dialogue:
“Cowboys! Spaceships! And Aliens! Oh My!!!” – Trailer for “Aliens in the Wild Wild West” (Seriously. And the aliens in question, in the grand tradition of Crappy Puppet Yowler, Queen Dragora, and *especially* the entire cast of “Trapped in Toyworld“, are Grade-A pure, refined Nightmare Fuel.)
“Alex is not taking anyone’s place! He has been shrunken and put into a jar!” – Anika
“I need the Glass Harmonica, and I need privacy!” – Alex Psy-yi-yi... duck?

Things I Learned from this Movie/Book/Whatever:
* – It’s okay to play with a wireless device on a plane.
* – If you tend to trip out easily, like if you see colors when you hear music and can imagine yourself as an animal, you have magical trippy transformation powers! So go fight evil or something.
* – Long ago, Gryphons ruled the skies of Romania. Sadly, they may be extinct. They were too sh**tily animated.
* – Romania is crawling with dangerously genre-blind magical people.

Things That Can Save Any Movie:
Cool Creatures?
Alex turns into a grand total of *three* different creatures. Two of them were probably pets and one was sh**tily animated. Oh, he also turns into a glowy spirit-being and pure digital data. Or something. I kinda zoned out at that point.
Good Soundtrack? Trippy electronic-sounding music that makes magical people trip out, if that’s your thing.
Hot Guys? No.
Pretty Scenery? They literally filmed the whole thing on this one street in Bucharest. It IS a pretty street, though.
Nifty Animation/Special Effects/Illustrations? Very, very no.

Drinking Game Potential? Drink when Alex should use his magic but doesn’t, because the effects budget is spent.

Head Movie Potential? I would say yes. It IS thematically appropriate given the title and the magical people and the trippy music and such.

Rating: Jordan rating (3)
Jordan transforming into a big, badass Ultrasaurus to stomp on the director.
Credits
A Kushner-Locke Film released by Full Moon in 1999. Written by Louis DeLoach and directed by Philippe Browning.
Related Links
IMDB entry
Cold Fusion Review – With a nice graphic of the highly misleading cover art.

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