Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Berkeley Breathed, Seth Green, Stephan Pastis
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Joel Allen Schroeder
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 89
Date: 11/15/2013
IMDB

Dear Mr. Watterson (2013)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Exploring

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In 1985, a comic strip called "Calvin and Hobbes" appeared in a small number of newspapers. Its run ended in 1995, having become one of the most popular and beloved strips of all time, and many believe, the greatest. Creator Bill Watterson viewed comics as an art form and held himself to that high bar, creating great jokes and visuals day after day. He inspired numerous others, and unlike many of his contemporaries, he refused to merchandize his characters, turning them into toys or lunch boxes, thereby keeping a kind of purity and control to his work. Dear Mr. Watterson discusses all these things, the death of the art form as we know it, and how "Calvin and Hobbes" might have been the last great comic strip.

But Dear Mr. Wattersonhas two annoying aspects. Most obviously, the reclusive Bill Watterson does not appear anywhere, not even in photographs, though some of his quotes are printed onscreen. Secondly, director Joel Allen Schroeder -- whose first feature-length film this is -- fails to film the "Calvin and Hobbes" comics in a simple, straightforward way so that the audience can actually read them; instead, he keeps them moving around, adding digital effects for short attention spans.

And though the rest of the movie is presented in the typical, boring talking-head format, the interviews are all enthusiastic and feature the faces behind many popular comic strips, including Berkeley Breathed ("Bloom County" and "Opus") and Stephan Pastis ("Pearls Before Swine"). The movie generates great excitement and awe over Watterson's work, especially when Schroeder is shown, white-gloved, poring over original strips. The movie definitely makes you want to read, or re-read, these classics.

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