Capture the Flag is in theaters this Friday, Dec. 4.
With the rise of Pixar studios in the late 1990s, animated movies entered a golden age not seen since Walt Disney was at his creative peak 75 years ago. Not every animated movie can live up to the standards of Pixar; indeed, whether a movie is animated or live-action or marketed to children or adults, few movies of any type can compare to the amazing quality control that Pixar exerts over its films. With this in mind, the animated family film Capture the Flag is a perfectly decent entertainment for children. To note that it is not at the level of the annual Pixar entertainment doesn’t seem a fair comparison, much like noting that not every movie made in the ’70s compares to the latest by Francis Ford Coppola.
Admittedly, the premise of Capture the Flag is clever enough, and unlike most animated films whether released by Disney or the other major animated studios, the film does not rely on cute anthropomorphic animals in order to entertain. The film centers on the plan of a ruthless billionaire – after all, with the exception of Daddy Warbucks there are no beloved billionaires in fiction, despite how much people adore the massively wealthy in real life – who decides to promote the conspiracy theory that the 1969 moon landing was faked in order to promote his own moon landing that will harness a new source of clean energy for his own nefarious purposes.
The idea that the moon landing was faked is perhaps the most durable of all conspiracy theories, and next to its modern variants such as that 9/11 was faked and the Sandy Hook shootings were a false flag, it seems positively benign. This makes it an odd choice for a kids movie, since conspiracy theories generally don’t appeal to children, who have yet to develop such a cynical look at the world, but it is at the least original.
Capture the Flag is the type of animated film that seems as if it is designed for adults yet is forced into a family-friendly stance because of its form rather than because of the actual function of the story. The film has characters parodying computer titans Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, and its story of the United States commissioning another trip to the moon in order to get the flag left there by Neil Armstrong in 1969 recalls Clint Eastwood’s geriatric adventure Space Cowboys.
And yet despite this adult focus, Capture the Flag still finds a way to hone in on the young children that normally make up the audience of an animated film through its child protagonists who tag along on the modern moon mission along with the aging astronaut who was once a member of the Apollo team for NASA. There is even an anthropomorphic lizard, which seems to be a requirement for even those animated features that have primarily human casts. This seems unavoidable no matter the quality of the film; after all, even Pixar’s masterpiece Up still made a place for talking dogs.
Capture the Flag may not have a storyline that seems to appeal to children, but its tone and humor are geared directly toward adolescents even if some of its references are not. As family entertainment, it is perfectly serviceable, even if it fails to reach the high standard that Pixar has set for animated movies.
Capture the Flag
In theaters Dec. 4
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