November 12, 2011

The Golden Blaze (2005)

FOR HOW MUCH NETFLIX crows about its Just For Kids section, their selection of animated G-rated movies made for children above the pre-school level is anemic, to put it lightly.

But after several attempts to find just the right family film suitable for both Dash and Jack-Jack, one seemed to keep popping up: the relatively unknown 2005 release The Golden Blaze.

Bullied schoolboy Jason (Khleo Thomas) has his world turned around when his dad, fumbling scientist Mr. Fletcher (Blair Underwood), accidentally gains superpowers much like Jason’s comic book hero, The Golden Blaze. However, the town’s Trump-like business tycoon, Thomas Tatum (Michael Clarke Duncan), was also affected by the accident – slowly turning him into The Golden Blaze’s arch-nemesis, Quake.


The Golden Blaze sets itself apart from recent animated films in several ways, the first being director Bryon E. Carson’s choice of Flash animation (a la The Chosen One) versus CGI or 2D. True, it may have been a budgetary choice, but it immediately sets the film apart in today’s crowded animation market.

The plot is also unique, yet also so obvious it’s hard to believe no other superhero or family film hadn’t done it before. Watching Jason give his dad tips and lessons on how to wield his newfound powers provides many funny moments, but it also serves as a way for them to bond as father and son in a much less awkward way than before.

They say that a superhero movie is only as good as its villain, and The Golden Blaze delivers with Thomas Tatum, who eventually becomes the villainous Quake. He’s probably the best-written character, with a story arc and dialogue worthy of any mainstream or live-action superhero film.

Other strong points: The Golden Blaze’s action sequences come at a pretty steady clip, but stop short of becoming relentless. And it’s refreshing to see a superhero movie featuring a predominately African-American cast – including Thomas, Underwood, Duncan, and Sanaa Lathan (The Cleveland Show), as well as Neil Patrick Harris (A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas) as a sarcastic comic book store owner – giving much-needed diversity to a genre usually populated by eccentric white billionaires with daddy issues.

It’s no surprise that The Golden Blaze won the 2005 Children’s Jury Award for Best Animated Feature Film at the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival. It hits all the marks for a kid audience: an animated superhero film about a boy who’s dad becomes a superhero, and the two grow closer because of it. But The Golden Blaze also does an effective job of addressing the struggles boys and dads can have when they realize neither one of them is perfect.

It’s the world’s worst-kept secret that every dad wants his kids to see him as a superhero, even if he’s not invincible. And in the highly entertaining Golden Blaze, that’s exactly what Mr. Fletcher wants from Jason: to love him for the man he is, not the superhero he’s become. And along the way, Mr. Fletcher is reminded that with great power comes great responsibility – not just as a superhero for the town, but as a father for his son.


What did Dash and Jack-Jack think?
The boys were a little apprehensive at first, trying to adjust to The Golden Blaze’s unique animation style, but they quickly ate it up – enjoying the action and laughing often. The fact that the plot centered around superheroes and villains, and a boy’s role in it all, surely helped.

Is it suitable for your kids?
The Golden Blaze is rated G, but it does have a bit of questionable content for very young viewers. There’s a solid amount of comic book violence (punching, hurling, etc.), and Jason is bullied by several boys, including Thomas Tatum’s son Leon (Rickey D’Shon Collins), who verbally harasses Jason and punches him once in the face off-screen (you hear the thud, followed by Jason sporting a black eye). In terms of language, someone calls a fellow kid a “dodo head,” and Jason and Leon each utter “this sucks” once. Looking back, The Golden Blaze may have been a bit inappropriate for someone Jack-Jack’s age (6), but more suited for older kids and tweens.

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
The Golden Blaze seems more like a film for dads and sons to watch together, but there’s no reason the whole family can’t enjoy it – FilmMother included.

Behold their awesome powers of...bowling? Skee Ball?
Bocce? Intergalactic soccer?

The Golden Blaze
* Director: Bryon E. Carson
* Screenwriter: Archie Gips
* Stars: Blair Underwood, Michael Clarke Duncan, Sanaa Lathan, Neil Patrick Harris, Khleo Thomas, Rickey D’Shon Collins
* MPAA Rating: G

Buy The Golden Blaze (DVD) at >>
Rent The Golden Blaze from Netflix >>


James (SeattleDad) said...

I agree about the Netflix selection. Not much there in the kid movie dept for someone 4-5.

I saw this one and wondered about it. Thanks for sharing your review.

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