The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, December 9, 1998 -
ack rost' leaves Michael Keaton out in the cold
By Erin Podoisky
Da 'Arts Writer
how hard he tries to make things
work. Soon enough a car accident on
Christmas Eve sends Jack to the club
her son has gone off the deep end (or
into the igloo, as it were) and
remains oblivious until the very end,
When you're a kid and a parent circuit in the sky and Charlie is left when she and Charlie get to see Jack
dies, your deepest wish, the only to fend for himself against his anger back in his real form surrounded by a
ng in the world that you really and and abandonment issues. heavenly glow as he floats off into
ly want, is to see Mom or Dad The following year, Charlie builds the distance. All together now:
again. You try to bargain with Death, a snowman in an effort to make con- "Aww."
begging for a second chance even if tact with his father through an activ- One of the main problems with
only for a moment. Movies deal with ity that they used to do together. "Jack Frost" is how often it shifts in
the return of the Thanks to a magic harmonica (leave tone from serious to ludicrous to
dead in one form your disbelief at the door for this mawkish. This is probably a case of
or another quite one, kids), the snowman comes to too many cooks in the kitchen, as the
often, probably life as Daddy Jack incarnate. movie was written by four extremely
Jack Frost because they're Snowman Jack helps Charlie out different writers, including Mark
fiction and against bullies, bonds with his son Steven Johnson ("Simon Birch") and
therefore can do and even crosses the great hot comedian Jeff Cesario (probably
9 anything no mat- asphalt parking lot divide, melting brought in to punch up Jack's dia-
Opens Friday at ter how unbe- all the way, to see Charlie score his logue to an inappropriately adoles-
showcase 1 i e v a b I e . first hockey goal. cent one-liner level).
R e c e n t I y, Naturally, Gabby The computer and animatronic
"Contact" han- thinks that effects in "Jack Frost" look alternat-
died the " ingly decent and hideous despite
parent/child work by Lucas' ILM and Jim
reunion in a Henson's Creature Shop. Part of the
small scene and problem is that that the snowman is
was dead-on in its portrayal. unappealingly drawn - he looks the
"Jack Frost" tries to do the same way fingers on a chalkboard sound.
an entire movie, and just ends For a better kiddie effects movie,
up well, dead. check out "A Bug's Life" or even
Jack Frost (Michael Keaton) "Small Soldiers."
,.a middle-aged-but-young- And then there's the acting.
enough-at-heart-to-call-his- Dear me, where to begin. A
son-"dude" rocker on the few shorts statements should
brink of his big record con- suffice: 1)
tact break after years of toil-
tng in small Colorado clubs
Unfortunately, his lifelong
dream of making it big often
buts his wife, Gabby (Kelly
ston), and I I-
Charlie (Joseph x
Cross), in second cotesy of Waer Bros.
place no matter Snowman Jack, voiced by Michael Keaton, enjoys a jolly sledding with Joseph Cross in "Jack Frost."
courtesy of WanerB rohers
Joseph Cross and Michael Keaton share a father and son moment before Keaton transmorphs into their creation.
Michael Keaton needs to find a new ing hockey coach, is frightening, but adults, it's too boring and unattrac-,
agent as soon as possible. A Ray probably not in the way the movie tive for the 8-12 set despite its obvi-
Nicolet (his character in "Jackie intends. ous intent as a kiddie weepie and it's
Brown" and "Out of Sight") vehicle The brightest spot in the cast is the too adult for small children. I was
wouldn't hurt. And he should never, snowman-shaped (yet definitely shocked to hear such phrases as "my
ever sing. Ever. human) Mark Addy, previously seen balls are freezing" come out of
2) Kelly Preston should seriously being bare to the bone in "The Full snowman Jack's mouth, not to men-
consider taking acting lessons from Monty." He is a welcome, grizzly tion an implied sex scene between
hubby John Travolta. addition to an otherwise sickly sweet Jack and Gabby, in a movie clearly
3) Joseph Cross looks like a little slate of players. targeted for young kids. A movie
Matty Damon but has only half the "Jack Frost" is going to have a ter- that Warner Bros. probably thinks is
chops. rible time trying to find an audience. for everyone isn't really for anyone
4) Henry Rollins, playing a rag- It's too saccharine and childish for at all.
Worm Jim digs into Wild game
Dragon singes player's interest
After great success with the "Earthworm Jim" series,
the zany programmers of Shiny have moved on to their
next project, "Wild 9." "Wild 9" incorporates many of
the elements which made the "Earthworm Jim" series so
popular, beginning with a wacky story line.
The great intergalactic hero, Wex Major, is on a quest
to rescue members of his team, the Wild 9, who have
been kidnapped by the evil oppressor Karn. Each of
Wex's kidnapped comrades, from Henry the Aquatic
Biped to Nitro the Living Bomb, are unique and crazy
enough to warrant their own
game, but "Wild 9" uses them to
add a twist to several of the
stages. Each hostage plays a cru-
cial role in their escape from
wherever Kamn imprisoned them,
*sing their powers to open doors,
blow-up obstacles or cross poiso-
This game earns points for
some unique qualities. Most notably,
the player is encouraged - and often times
required -to torture Karn's henchmen. Sure, you
could just blow them up with a missle or a grenade,
but where's the fun in that, right? Wex's main weapon,
the Rig - which may be the most versatile gun in the
universe - can be used to stun and grab enemies. Once
in the grasp of the Rig, the enemy can be treated to car-
*oon-style bodyslamming, or worse yet, find themselves
being carried by Wex towards some torturous machine.
Giant fans, spiked grinders, moving gears and loose
wires are among the many places where Karn's forces
may spend their last moments.
Fans of the "Earthworm Jim" will enjoy the chases
that Wex endures between worlds. Wex gets to skim the
surface of different planets at high speeds in pursuit of
various enemies. There are also scenes where Wex bat-
ties for his life while freefalling down tubes. These
sequences are graphically well-done, fun to play and
provide a break from the traditional side-scrolling
Overall, control is pretty good, although working with
the Rig sometimes proves difficult. For instance, the
game often requires that an enemy be moved to a certain
position with the Rig, but the enemies sometimes die
from being slammed into too many items on accident
while in transport. This is funny, yet frustrating at times.
The game is also fairly difficult. Continues can be only
be earned by torturing almost everybody in a stage, or
by collecting 100 "9" symbols that are scattered across
the stages - a task that is more difficult than it sounds.
The soundtracks are immersive and fitting for each
stage, yet at times, they are so subtle that you
might not notice them. The sound effects serve
to keep the game lively. From Wex yelling "Yo
mamma' to his foes or "Wex-cellent" in
IA triumph over them, to the last screams
of his unfortunate, ground-up ene-
mies, you may find yourself laughing
too hard to continue on.
Graphically, "Wild 9" is a treat. The
backgrounds add a true feeling of depth
to the stages and often contain elements
that interact with the foreground. The ani-
mations are smooth, and the antics of Wex
and the enemies will induce more than a few
bouts of laughter.
"Wild 9" does an excellent job in living up to the lega-
cy of"Earthworm Jim," but that is it's only real flaw. The
game is more of a face lift on the orginal classic "Jim,"
than something new in itself. For instance, "Jim" also
had the aforementioned chase scenes between some lev-
els of the game.
Thirteen levels of comic action await as Wex Major
looks to stake his claim as a new hero in the market.
"Wild 9" is a step in the right direction for Shiny, a com-
pany on the move in a major way with this Wex-cellent
- Deveron Q. Sanders
Spyro The Dragon
There are just certain video games
that you play at around 2 or 3 in the
morning after frying your brain out
studying for finals and the Vivarin
has kicked in. The thought of con-
trolling a little purple spunky dragon
through the land of Dragon World
has so much appeal at that time ...
or not. The only thing Sony's new
release, "Spyro the Dragon" (which
coincidentally is made by
Insomniace Games), allows you to
do is control a little purple dragon to
save the Dragon Worlds. This is not
In a nutshell, the story is that
there were five Dragon families liv-
ing in their own little Dragon Worlds
until one day a Gnore broke a rule.
(Please don't ask what. a Gnorc is.)
Gnasty the Gnorc was banished to
the Dragon Junkyard. After fooling
around with a bunch of magic spells,,
he finally hit on two winners. One
was a spell to trap the dragons in
crystal, and the other was a potion to
turn those Dragon family jewels into
Gnorc soldiers. The hero, Spyro just
happened to be playing hooky and
didn't get caught up in all the mess.
Now he has to save the day.
To do that, the gameplayer must
make sure that the fabled dragon
eggs do not get stolen. Once they are
whisked away by the evil Gnores,
they can't be returned. Secondly, the
Dragon kingdom cannot be restored
without the dragons, so be sure to
free them from their crystal prisons.
Finally, the player must remember
he/she is a dragon, and can breathe
fire. Use it! Then gargle with
There are five worlds that must be
restored before Spyro heads out into
Gnasty's dragon world - the
Artisans (culture and beauty), the
Peacemakers, the Magic crafters,
Beast Makers, and Dream Weavers
(peacekeepers of thee night). These
intricate and large worlds and the
puzzles that Spyro has to solve
along his way will players interested
as long as their near comatose.
Spyro has a few friends that help
him out in his quest, mainly Sparx
the Dragonfly and a lot of multi-col-
ored fairies. It is unclear what
Sparx's role is, besides taking a few
hits now and then from enemies, but
he seems helpful enough if some-
what lame. The fairies are better
allies; they save you from falling,
heal you or tell you where to go.
This game will most likely be a
little immature for a collegiate play-.
er's interest level. The game's ability
and age demographic seems to be
for pre-teens, but if this appeals to
anyone at three in the morning,
don't think twice about it; this isn't
"Madden '99" or "Duke Nukem."
This is Spyro, the spunky little pur-
ple dragon out to whoop the evil
Gnores threatening his world. So go
forth and beat those Gnores. Why?
Because Spyro said so!
- Gabe Smith
Hollywood voice actors' abilities
are more in demand than ever
Los Angeles Tunes
*OLLYWOOD - Dylan Pickle,
the gnarly new baby on Nickelodeon's
long-running animated series
"Rugrats," is actress Tara Charendoff's
brother-pummeling, toy-grabbing, up-
spitting bundle of joy.
She supplied Dylan's cries in "The
Rugrats Movie" and she'll be with him
in February when he crawls, cooing
and gurgling, into the small screen to
,l the gang of preschoolers in new
odes of the No. 1-rated prime-time
Charendoff is considered a rising
star among the newest wave of voice-
over actors, a fraternity long regarded
as Hollywood's camnival sideshow -
the ones who laid the goofy Goofy
soundtracks on slapstick cartoons. But
with animated shows sprouting like
kudzu, and reflecting costlier produc-
tion values and better writing, voice-
o r work has become a hip thing.
1n TV and film stars clamor for
guest spots on children's shows.
Her babbling, giggling Baby Dil
performance - from the first starkly
moving delivery-room cries in the
"Rugrats" feature film - have made
her a top choice of Hollywood casting
directors. And her peers now consider
Charendoff a major new talent among
those actors following in the footsteps
e late Mel "Bugs Bunny" Blanc.
ut "Rugrats" is only one of the
series that Charendoff is on this fall.
The petite, 23-year-old Toronto native
also plays Spot, a neurotic hen in
"Disney's 101 Dalmatians;" Bubbles,
one of the "Powerpuff Girls" on
Cartoon Network; and she's lined up a
parade of guest spots.
While Charendoff is usually only
heard, not seen, her ability to act is as
important as her voice.
"After all, Blanc was a great actor,
he had great timing, comedic gifts. He
didn't just do a Brooklyn accent, he
became those characters," said
LaMarche, who recently won an ani-
mation Annie Award for his performance
as the Brain on Warner Bros.' lab mouse
buddy series, "Pinky & the Brain."
"When I do the Brain, people tell
me I hunch over and cock an eyebrow;
I become the Brain," said LaMarche, a
comedy club impersonator tapped to
perform Chief Quimby 13 years ago
on "Inspector Gadget."
Voice actors -take an old hand like
Frank Welker, for instance - are nor-
mal-looking people who undergo an
amazing transformation once they're
in a recording studio. They make
weird, wild, wonderful sounds - as if
they were possessed by zany or bizarre
"I tend to do a lot of goofy, crazy
stuff. Chairs, dogs, cars, motorcycles,
all kinds of animals," Welker said after
a recent recording session near Warner
Bros. Widely regarded as one of the
foremost talents in the field, he has
hundreds of credits over the past two
decades, working steadily in children's
animated shows. He is Santa's Little
Helper in "The Simpsons" and Freddie
Jones in "Scooby Doo." He played a
dog that explodes on an episode of
"The X-Files." In feature films, he was
Khan in "Mulan" and the murderous
female alien Sil in "Species."
Welker and other voice actors create
the characters that are later given final
form by animation artists and, by all
measure, greeted eagerly by audi-
Indeed, a number of network and
cable outlets - notably ABC,
Nickelodeon, Fox, the WB - feature
wall-to-wall animated kids' program-
ming on Saturday mornings, and more
of it on weekdays before and after
school. Fox's successful prime-time
shows "The Simpsons" and "King of
the Hill" have spurred the network to
order the animated "Futurama" and
"Family Guy," to begin early next year.
UPN will soon introduce "Dilbert"
and there is talk that other networks
are considering prime-time projects.
That means Hollywood animation
studios are running at high gear, hiring
voice specialists as well as on-camera
actors who enjoy the quick sessions -
no need for wardrobe, makeup and
hair - and the chance to play out of
type or do work their children can