xXx: Return of Xander Cage
The last forty minutes of the movie do come together in a pretty diverting way.
My biggest fear going into "Dear Mr. Watterson" had to do with the reclusive nature of its subject, "Calvin and Hobbes" creator Bill Watterson. Here's a cartoonist whose work was beloved by millions, yet he chose to avoid the spotlight. I feared a repeat of the abysmal "Salinger," with its numerous talking heads rambling on about how their love of the author fueled their stalker tendencies. Thankfully, no interviewee in "Dear Mr. Watterson" attempted to seek him out, then whined about the subsequent rejection; unfortunately, many of them still ramble incessantly about how much they love "Calvin and Hobbes."
I was never a fan of these "love-a-thon" style documentaries, even if I love the subject as well. I'm especially irritated if, like in "Dear Mr. Watterson," there are elements of interest that could have been expanded to fill the time taken up by the gushing talking heads. Director Joel Allen Schroeder assembles an impressive list of cartoonists and historians. Surrounding these subject matter experts are lots of regular people whose goal seems to be padding out the running time. As they discuss "how much this strip meant to me," I got the sense that "Dear Mr. Watterson" was as uninterested in them as I was; they're not even identified.
Schroeder tells us what "Calvin and Hobbes" meant to him as well, but that's fine. This is his movie. As our narrator and guide, Schroeder takes us to places like the Cartoon Museum and Ohio State University, where Watterson loaned the drawings of the strips he made during "Calvin and Hobbes'" 10 year run. He also takes us to Chagrin Falls,
Wisconsin Ohio, Watterson's home town and the model for the town his characters inhabit. On the back of one of the compilations of "Calvin and Hobbes" strips is a picture of a giant Calvin performing a Godzilla-like stampede on the town. The Chagrin Falls bookstore owner discusses just how obsessively accurate Watterson was in his drawings, even pointing out where the bookstore is located in the picture. Schroeder responds that, when he drove into Chagrin Falls, it felt like being absorbed into Calvin and Hobbes' universe.
So who were Calvin and Hobbes? They are, respectively, a spiky-haired six-year old boy and his stuffed tiger. On the surface, Calvin has Dennis the Menace-type characteristics (Schroeder's mom cites this as the reason she didn't allow him to read "Calvin and Hobbes"), but Watterson shows Calvin to be a very imaginative, even philosophical, little boy. Childhood imagination propels the gorgeously drawn strip, with Hobbes coming to life only in Calvin's eyes. Hobbes is part Jiminy Cricket, part co-conspirator and, at times, the voices of reason and counterpoint. Their adventures include numerous toboggan rides; interactions with Susie, a little girl whom Calvin pelts with snowballs, and dealings with Miss Wormwood, a teacher Calvin constantly envisions as an alien.