Kahlil Gibran’s famous novel-with-poems, known by just about everyone, read by . . . whom? (Apparently, it’s as ubiquitous a wedding gift as Dr. Seuss OH, THE PLACES YOU’LL GO is for graduations.) But as a movie, even an animated one, a tough nut to crack. What do you do with the poems? And what’s left without them? Writer/director Roger Allers, with Salma Hayek as driving-force producer, graft on a sentimental story about a silent little troublemaker (eventually voiced by Quvenzhané Wallis) who befriends political-dissident poet Liam Neeson as he journeys to the capital. Freed after a seven-year term, he thinks he’s being shipped home, but an unexpected stop in the city may be his last. It sounds like a workable solution, with eight ‘teaching’ poems recited along the route, each drawn in a different animation style by a different award-winning animator. But the story relationships all feel contrived or too cute. (The girl & her tough-talking mom are a particular pain.) And the main story’s animation style, partially chosen to let the more abstract/colorful styles used for the poems stand out, is tasteful in all the wrong ways. Computer-generated to ape watercolor earthtones, with slightly off-balanced, ill-proportioned bodies. And only a couple of the poems (sounding very New Agey) really come off in the given animation, ranging from the worst (Bill Plympton) to the best (Tomm Moore in what looks like an homage to Richard Williams). In sum, a very mixed bag.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Hayek voices the mother, but for some reason they’ve made her look like Minnie Driver. Minnie Driver? Sue, Selma, sue!