Netflix’s newest animated movie Nimona feels like the sum of generic kids movie tropes from films that work much better. Some solid voicework saves it from being outright bad, but the final product still feels hollow.
Nimona tries to strike at the same imaginative core that worked so well for a few of Netflix’s animated releases from a year ago, namely The Sea Beast and Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, but instead comes out overbaked – trying to have its way in so many directions that it just ultimately feels lost within so many ideas.
And there are some movies in the past that have worked with this hyperactive formula, but Nimona feels as if a Blue Sky film tried to adopt the same referential style of Sony’s newest pictures – a style that, if in the wrong hands – can turn out very poorly.
Nimona isn’t nearly that bad, but it fails to feel singular, opting for bits and pieces of other films that are often more enjoyable and far less pretentious. There’s an overstuffed layer of anti-establishment sentiment coursing through the veins in Nimona that goes from being interesting to exhausting real quick.
The movie is an odd two-hander, starting as the story of a young knight named Ballister Boldheart (Riz Ahmed, mostly voice-moping through to get the check), whose big day of being sworn into the protectors for their unnamed kingdom where he lives quickly turns south when he’s framed for the murder of Queen Valerin (Lorraine Toussaint).
After escaping into hiding and losing his hand to his former partner Ambrosious Goldenloin (Eugene Lee Yang), Ballister meets the young titular shapeshifting girl Nimona, who’s been ostracized from the community due to her malleable skillset and eccentric personality. She’s voiced by Chloë Grace Moretz, who easily gives the best performance of the film, instilling in her character the self-conscious tendencies of a teenager with the whimsical, adventurous imagination of someone who thinks they’re invincible.
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Because for the most part, Nimona is invincible. She’s got the ability to morph into any animal she needs at a moment’s notice, one of the few true set pieces in the film that works a majority of the time. The rest of Nimona doesn’t carry its own weight, from being paced awkwardly after a first half climax that could’ve worked for a short film’s resolution, to an unremarkably flat main antagonist. It’s as if the film plucks the most generic narrative choices from fellow animated movies without realizing how to build characters around them. The jokes land at a shoddy rate, and they don’t reinforce the story when they do land.
The second half follows Nimona’s story as she sets out to reassimilate into a world that’s rejected her. This doesn’t really come fruition until the third act when her character’s backstory is revealed, but you get a general idea of what road this may be heading down.
Although short in screen time, this still may be the better storyline in the movie. Nimona’s anti-authority stance feels like the strongest theme the film has to offer, largely because she’s given the loudest and angriest lines in the script. She becomes the emotional pillar for a movie desperate for one, but it unfortunately comes too late as the action around her engulfs what could’ve been a more rewarding and effective plotline.
From what I’ve seen, the animation seems to be an effective aspect of the movie for many, but I found it mostly distracting. The glossy, high-resolution characters mixed with the flat, stock-image backgrounds don’t really do much for me, and the clean style in their character movements don’t do it many favors either. There doesn’t feel like real authorship to it, rather an attempt to reject Disney animation while still capitalizing on the same cutesy character design.
Nimona has a few sight gags and strong thematical proclamation, but it all feels muddy by the time that the credits roll (18 minutes of credits on this one – sheesh). Chloë Grace Moretz largely feels like the winner in this overbearing film, but that’s in part because everything is crumbling around her. She’s not able to elevate the movie to another level by herself.
Nimona is available to stream on Netflix
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Film Cast and Credits
Chloë Grace Moretz as Nimona
Riz Ahmed as Ballister Boldheart
Eugene Lee Yang as Ambrosius Goldenloin
Frances Conroy as The Director
Lorraine Toussaint as Queen Valerin
Beck Bennett as Thoddeus Sureblade
Composer: Christophe Beck
Nimona movie on Letterboxd
Nimona movie on IMDb