Fire heart

Featuring the voices of Olivia Cooke, Kenneth Branagh, and William Shatner.

Where I Watched It: Hulu

English Audio Description Available?: No

The Plot: A young girl tells her firefighter father that she wants to be just like him when she grows up. He tells her women aren’t allowed to be firefighters. That’s why they’re called firemen. So, flash forward to her being 16, in 1930’s New York City, and someone is burning down Broadway theatres one by one, and luring in the firefighters and kidnapping them in the process. So, our girl Georgia becomes Joe, and signs up to go with her father and some ragtag cartoonish idiots to try and figure out who the arsonist is. Based on the lack of audio description, and odd choices, it’s either a Sith Lord or Smaug.

What Works: Surprisingly, this is not a terrible film. Buried deep in what I assumed was a disposable random kids film is a somewhat well developed story about girls being strong, following their dreams, and a nice father/daughter bonding story. Olivia Cooke does a good job with her voice narration, and there were a few moments where I got a tingle of the feels. Your kids could be watching a lot worse things.

What Doesn’t Work: But they could also be watching a lot better things too. Most of the voiceover work is terrible. I’ll give Shatner a pass, because his role is small, and he did fine. But Keneth Granagh sleepwalks through his paycheck, and the cast are voiced by over the top actors much better suited for making a film aimed at toddlers.

The funny thing is that you would assume at points in the film that this was a film aimed at toddlers, except there’s this creepy Phantom of The opera knockoff vibe going down, and characters are in imminent danger. Instead of being for the 5 and under crowd, it’s more for the 6-12 crowd, not really the group that will laugh at these bad voice acting dubs.

And by the way, this is a dubbing. Despite how American this film is, it does come from a French Canadian animation house, and there are alternate voice actors listed on IMDB. So the assumption is that this is the American voice cast, which is much more ironic that Hulu only has one audio track, and it’s “default”. It’s not even the original voice cast, and Hulu has the balls to call it the default. Oh, Hulu, just admit you hate trying to provide alternate accessibility audio tracks for literally anyone. I’d hate to speak another language and want dubbed audio, because you won’t find it on Hulu.

There are some other things that don’t work. I actually assumed the police Chief was the arsonist simply because his voice work was so terrible. Then again, i have no reference to what he looks like, and there was a joke about him being a “Queen”, but instead of rolling with the gay jokes, we just have this really odd police chief that talks like Minnie Mouse. I assumed it was some character in disguise, trying to modify their voice the same way Olivia Cooke does when her character is playing a male firefighter, but no. That’s just the choice they made. He’s not the arsonist. They just wanted a police chief that sounded like that.

There’s some good heart in this fire, but it’s just trapped in this hell scape of bad animation tropes. It’s clear that their entire voice budget went to Branagh and Shatner, so when filling the other roles, they just hired a bunch of awful voice actors who went way over the top, and probably came cheap. This film wants us to talk about serious issues like equality with women, and even touches on some race issues when a Broadway character mentions her upbringing and it sounds a lot like The Help. But then, all these supporting characters are so distractingly awful, and the villain is so underdeveloped in terms of the manifesto of why, this ends up not being worth the trouble.

The Blind Perspective: Like I said, no audio description. I’ve been doing more YouTube videos, and none of the ones I’ve done since I restarted have been a film without audio description, so i chose this random 2022 release because it felt inconsequential going in, I knew nothing about it, and animated films are usually easier to follow due to the voice actors and outlandish sound effects.

I was right. This was mostly OK to follow, except I never knew what any of the characters looked like, if anyone was lurking in the shadows, what the villain looked like and why she sounded like a Sith Lord, or any myriad of the visual choices made by this film. All I got was some mostly terrible voice actors, and a story that really deserved better.

Should you watch it? Do you have blind kids that might like this? I’m going to say there are so many other films out there better than this, I don’t know why you’d want to sit through this even if it did have audio description. But without it, unless your daughter is obsessed with firefighters, give her something else to watch. There’s also a lesson to be learned here about girl power, and maybe that lesson is also worth ignoring everything else. That’s up to you.

Final Thoughts: A forgettable film that lacked the kind of budget to secure a solid voice cast. And the sad thing is, it’s not like this film is written poorly. Sure, I didn’t get the villain’s motivation enough, but the script is actually not terrible. had a studio come along and invested enough in a voice cast that wasn’t absurd, and if Kennneth Branagh drank some espresso before reading his lines, we’d have an entirely different movie. There’s a good, possibly great film trapped inside this awful dubbing. As it stands, I know this is a kids film, but half the time it seems aimed at the Paw Patrol crowd, and the other half of the time, it feels like girls who just enjoyed Rya and the Last Dragon, Encanto, and Turning Red might like this as well. By playing to kids of all ages, and dumbing down the voice cast, what could have been a fantastically resonant story is turned into a clown car on fire.

Final Grade: C-

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