Dear Mr. Watterson
Film Review by Kam Williams
Reverential Retrospective Chronicles Career of Reclusive Comic Strip Creator
The comic strip Calvin & Hobbes enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity soon after first appearing in newspapers on November 18, 1985. Drawn and written by Bill Watterson, it was voted Best Syndicated Cartoon 7 years in a row over the course of a decade-long run which also twice netted its talented author the coveted Cartoonist of the Year award.
The reclusive Watterson so cherished his privacy that he shied away from the spotlight despite constant clamor for him to cash in on his success. But he had no trouble resisting the temptation to license his characters to product manufacturers ostensibly out of a fear that mass merchandising might cheapen his comic.
Moreover, in 1995, Watterson stopped publishing the column on his own terms the day he decided it was time, and quietly slipped back into obscurity. This was easy to achieve, since he still lived in tiny Chagrin Falls, the idyllic Ohio town where he’d been raised from the age of 6.
Directed by Joel Allen Schroeder, Dear Mr. Watterson is a reverential retrospective which seeks to flesh out its inscrutable, impossible to find subject. The film features a flurry of accolades from colleagues and fans, including the widow of Charles Schultz, the creator of Peanuts.
Again and again, the contributors roll out superlatives, uniformly expressing their admiration of the enigmatic Watterson in glowing detail, whether appraising his rich artwork or deeply philosophical storytelling which helped shape a whole generation of impressionable young minds. Conspicuous in his absence, the only person missing from the movie is the Watterson himself, an inveterate introvert who, of course, didn’t participate in the project.
Nevertheless, this illuminating documentary does manage to paint a compelling picture of a modest genius who used his beloved, kid-friendly cartoon to convey the timeless message that there’s magic in everyday life, provided you’re young enough at heart to look for it.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 90 minutes
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
To see a trailer for Dear Mr. Watterson, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLnPccyg_LQ