An aspect of my life has always been my appreciation towards comics in general. In my younger years, I really gravitated towards a variety of comics. From the classic tales of the first issues of Spider-Man, to the latest adventures of office man Dilbert, comics have always given me a fair share of amusement, but also inspiration, in their own individual ways. Seeing these talented writers create such rich and creative material is something that I’ve grown to really respect from people in the industry, along with their fantastic detailed art, that took much time and thought to create.
One comic however that I seemed to miss out on in my life was Calvin and Hobbes. Originating back in 1985, the comic became a sensation that to this day is loved and adored by all ages. That is what Kickstart-funded documentary Dear Mr. Watterson covers, and even with some major flaws, it is an endearing and inviting documentary that made me want to stop what I am doing currently, and go pick up a copy of Calvin and Hobbes.
As I mentioned, Dear Mr. Watterson is a documentary on Calvin and Hobbs, but from the prospective of the fans that loved it dearly. The documentary runs through the history of comic books, the iconic author Bill Watterson, and the journey of these two iconic characters.
For Joel Allen Schroeder, this was a true passion project. After getting the film funded twice on Kickstarter, Schroeder directed, produced, and even edited the film together. That passion he displayed getting the film done is apparent, and resonates, in the result, along with the passion of the many fans of the series. This passion gives the film a very endearing quality, which is rare for most documentaries.
Schroeder also did a rather great job for each role he had in making the film. The direction has a nice sense of itself, playing along with the cartoon elements of the strip with some fun creative touches. Schroeder’s editing is certainly a highlight, as the film has smooth and impressive transitions, and is also paced very well. Even as a producer, Schroeder did a great job of getting a mix of talent, from people in the industry, to fans, and even celebrities like Seth Green, who all spoke quite eloquently about the subject.
Playing in with the people brought on to speak about the topic, the film had a very interesting perspective. Instead of focusing solely on the author, which is the impression that was given from the trailer, instead this is very much a movie about the fans, and their own interpretations of his work, and also the intrigue surrounding that work. This perspective fit the film very well, as this was a movie made by a fan himself.
Dear Mr. Watterson is also a very engaging film, that really gives the audience interest in its subject matter. The film as a whole does a good job of moving at a steady pace, and keeps the information going in a very fast and fun way. This dealing of rhetoric really got me interested in the material that it loves dearly.
The film as a whole is slightly uneven, especially the first act in general. The first act of the film is very poor, and pales in comparison to the rest of the film. It starts out in a very dull way, and really lacked direction throughout this first act. It’s good that it was able to make up for that with the rest of the film, but it’s still a shame that the film could not have a better start.
Personally, it felt like the documentary could have given out more information about Calvin and Hobbes, to create a better balance between info and fan opinion. The film does have some bit of information which was quite interesting, but as a whole, could have had more information to gain a better understanding about the strip and its creator.
Perhaps the biggest issue of Dear Mr. Watterson is that at times, it slips too deeply into hero worship. A documentary usually needs to have a wider scope, showing all aspects about its subject matter. Instead, this at times just becomes a bit repetitive, as its constant praising of Watterson was a bit too much. It’s certainly ok to have a movie made by the fans, but it would have been nice if they could have given a more full view on the subject matter.
While this film falters in some of the mechanics of a documentary, Dear Mr. Watterson makes up for it with a flashy style, engaging subject matter, and endearing quality about its subject.
Take a Drink: for each celebrity cameo.
Take a Drink: during each cartoon montage.
Do a Shot: to Mr. Watterson, for not being a sell-out and thinking out of the box.