A Boing Boing reader says: "Mick LaSalle is a film critic for the SF Chronicle. His review of Monster House
revealed his supreme lack of understanding when it comes to animation and CGI."
I agree. LaSalle doesn't know what he's talking about. His assessment of this crummy movie is profoundly wrong. The most egregious statement in the review had to be this one: "There was never any point to a close-up in an animated film -- there was never really anything to see." -- Woah! I mean, Winsor MacKay was blowing away audiences with the adorable and expressive Gertie the Dinosaur in 1914.
I know there's no accounting for taste, and if someone likes the animation in Monster House or A Scanner Darkly , I'm envious that they're so easily amused. But LaSalle's review reveals such a supreme lack of understanding about animation that true aficionados of the artform and talented industry pros are dumbfounded by LaSalle's astoundingly clueless review.
Pixar story artist Jeff Pidgeon sent a polite letter to the SF Chron in an attempt to educate LaSalle on the fact that animated cartoons weren't half bad before motion capture arrived to rescue the artform. (Excerpts from LaSalle's review in italics, followed by Pidgeon's response.):
Animated films always had the advantage of being able to go anywhere and show anything, to defy the laws of physics and follow the imagination as far as it could go. But they never had the ability to show the human face. There was never any point to a close-up in an animated film -- there was never really anything to see.
Nothing? No tenderness as Lady and the Tramp eat spaghetti together? No grief when Dopey stands at Snow White's coffin? No longing as Dumbo and his mother embrace at night, straining to reach one another through the wall of a circus wagon? No terror in Lampwick's face as he transforms into a donkey? You saw nothing in those faces?
Imagine what Disney might have done with this in the creation of the Seven Dwarfs. Imagine all the things that will be done with this in the future. "Monster House" looks like the ground floor of something important.
The emotional power and vibrant entertainment "Snow White" created almost seventy years ago will live on long after current techniques have come and gone. It hardly seems lacking.
The letter LaSalle wrote back to Pidgeon indicates that he doesn't want to learn anything from the talented animation industry pro:
Thank you for a thoughtful message. I appreciate it. (Don't agree with it, any of it, but I appreciate being accurately quoted and not being cursed at.)
As animation historian Amid Amidi says:
It's one thing to have a subjective view of a film —- it's another to be so glaringly ignorant of the art form you're discussing to completely dismiss one hundred years of accomplishments and proclaim something so obviously inferior as a technological advance.
Storyboard artist Jenny Lerew says:
[LaSalle] makes a mockery of 100 years of often beautiful, heartbreaking, breathtaking, real acting achievement in animated films. It's one thing to write about a "new" technique in film as the flavor of the month served up in a holy grail -- it's another to backtrack and demean the plain fact of past successes as somehow terribly lacking, which is what this reviewer thinks of, well, basically all Disney animation output from 1937 until "Monster House" with its supposedly improved presentation of animated facial performances.
The message boards for the society of digital artists are also full of head-shaking bewilderment over LaSalle's proudly ignorant review.