Live by Night
The key question behind Live by Night isn’t so much “Why did they bother?” as “What went wrong?”
Unnoticed except by animation fans, the Japanese have produced a lot of feature cartoons in recent years, including one, "Akira," which has achieved cult status. "Little Nemo" is the first to get a national U.S. release, and is a hybrid of Japanese animation, American writing, and an English-language soundtrack dubbed by such as Mickey Rooney.
Inspired by the classic Winsor McCay comic strips, the movie takes its thoroughly uninteresting hero, Little Nemo, on a journey through Slumberland and its frightening neighboring world, Nightmareland. In making Nemo into a dimwitted nonentity, the movie is only following an old tradition in animation, which holds that the hero is often the least interesting character in the story.
That's the case here. After Nemo's bed takes flight and goes swooping out of the bedroom window and off into Slumberland, we enter a world that seems inspired in some part by "Yellow Submarine." The movie only loosely follows a story line, careening from one adventure and character to another in a way that suggests dream logic.
Little Nemo is essentially the billiard ball necessary to get us from one pocket to another; he spends a great deal of his time in his pajamas, falling through infinity and screaming "Ohhhhhhhh!" He gathers some pals on his journey, including a scientist, a tout and four wide-eyed goblins. He also makes a friend of white-bearded old King Morpheus, who entrusts him with a royal scepter and a key and warns him to never, ever, use it to unlock the door behind which nightmares lurk.
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