Movie Review: “Dear Mr. Watterson” Will Be Embraced By ‘Calvin & Hobbes’ Fans

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Review by James McDonald

A documentary film about the impact of the newspaper comic strip Calvin & Hobbes, created by Bill Watterson.

“Dear Mr. Watterson” is a film that looks to the readers and fans of CALVIN AND HOBBES to tell the story of the strip and its creator. As the filmmakers explore the art and impact of Bill Watterson through this unique perspective, the undying appreciation and love of CALVIN AND HOBBES and the man behind it are evident in the anecdotes, stories, and memories shared by readers of the strip and friends and colleagues of Mr. Watterson. I was a kid who never really had an interest in comics growing up, whether they were strips in the newspapers or in a comic book. I was very visual and from a very early age I would run around the house with an old 8mm film camera and pretend I was making my own movie.

It wasn’t until I was twelve years old that I made my first film and I’ve been doing it ever since. I did however, have a lot of friends who read comic books religiously, whether they were the BEANO or the DANDY (British comics) or SUPERMAN or SPIDERMAN or X-MEN. As I got older, if I was flipping through the newspaper, I would always find myself turning to the comics page. I loved GARFIELD, he was always my favorite but CALVIN AND HOBBES would always make me smile. I connected with Calvin, a precocious and adventurous six-year-old boy with a huge imagination, and Hobbes, his sardonic stuffed tiger and the adventures they shared together.

“Dear Mr. Watterson” introduces us to the world of CALVIN AND HOBBES and its creator, Bill Watterson, through the eyes of the fans and comic lovers in general, including well-known cartoonists such as Berkeley Breathed, Jef Mallett, Wiley Miller and Jan Eliot, to name but a few. Watterson stopped drawing CALVIN AND HOBBES at the end of 1995 with a short statement to newspaper editors and his readers that he felt he had achieved all he could in the medium and was moving back into private life. The fans couldn’t believe this and the same with his fellow cartoonists.

Throughout the film, many of his peers state that he was the last real artist, in the same league as Charles Schulz and Walt Kelly and that his creation had inspired so many of them and that pretty much every comic strip that has come into existence since CALVIN AND HOBBES, has, in some form or another, borrowed from or paid homage to it. Mr. Watterson himself has become a recluse who doesn’t give interviews, sign autographs or take photos. Many publications have tried contacting him over the years to set up an interview but he has turned them all down. The other aspect of the film that I found really interesting was Watterson’s stubborn and unrelenting refusal to relinquish the comic’s rights.

With GARFIELD and PEANUTS plastered all over lunch boxes, children’s backpacks and TV holiday specials, Mr. Watterson refused to budge, a fearlessness that now seems a key part of the strip’s legacy. Overall, I rather enjoyed learning about Mr. Watterson and his creation. If you’re not a big fan of CALVIN AND HOBBES, I can see you looking at your watch but if you’re a die-hard aficionado, then this one’s for you. Recommended.

In stores May 13th

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James McDonald

Film/Theater Critic & Interviewer at Red Carpet Crash
Originally from Dublin, Ireland, James is a Movie Critic and Celebrity Interviewer with over 30 years of experience in the film industry as an Award-Winning Filmmaker.
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