Animal Crackers

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

Animal Crackers
dir Tony Bancroft, Scott Christian Sava
scr Dean Lorey, Scott Christian Sava
prd Scott Christian Sava, Marcus Englefield, George Lee, Leiming Guan
voices Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Ian McKellen, Danny DeVito, Raven-Symone, Patrick Warburton, Wallace Shawn, Gilbert Gottfried, Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Fierstein, Tara Strong, James Arnold Taylor
release US/UK 24.Jul.20
19/Spain Blue Dream 1h45

blunt krasinski mckellen

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Animal Crackers
A Spanish-Chinese coproduction, this wacky musical action-comedy gallops through a half-century of backstory before getting on with its manic plot. The animation is wildly colourful and the characters packed with hilariously quirky attitude, so it's likely to keep young children entertained. And there are hints of themes plus snappy throwaway gags that offer something extra for older viewers. But it's too unfocussed and messy to become a classic.
In the 1960s, preening showman Horatio (McKellen) abandons the Huntington Brothers Circus when his crush Talia (Strong) ditches him for his low-key performer sibling Buffalo Bob (Taylor). And Talia's fortune-telling mother Esmerelda (Fierstein) gives Bob a magical box of animal-shaped cookies that can transform people into circus-performing creatures. Now 50 years later, Bob's nephew Owen (Krasinski) and his wife Zoe (Blunt) inherit the circus. While Bob continues working for Zoe's dad (Shawn) at a dog-snack company, Zoe works with clown Chesterfield (DeVito) to revive the circus. But Horatio still wants those cookies.
The story is both over-complicated and rushed, as zany side characters literally try to steal the show. This provides plenty of comical energy and brightly eye-catching imagery, while witty details and knowing references add interest, as do some nice nods to vintage circus iconography. While the design work is strong, the animation has a plasticky feel to it, and the busy action set-pieces are rambunctiously chaotic, especially with so much silly slapstick and rather too many montage sequences. There are also some rather major plot holes, such as how Owen can be Bob's nephew but not Horatio's (is there a third half-brother?).

The range of nutty characters adds a lot of fun, as each one has his or her own personal issues. Blunt and Krasinski keep the leading roles sparky and sympathetic, while the vocal standouts are DeVito and especially McKellen, who bellows beautifully and gets two (alas, unmemorable) musical numbers. Meanwhile, some extra snap is provided by Shawn's cranky businessman and Gottfried's uproariously disruptive henchman. And in what's essentially a vocal cameo, Stallone gets his own amusing punchline.

While the swirling, brilliantly hued frenzy is often funny, it can also become somewhat exhausting. The filmmakers have worked hard to make this movie as goofy as possible, so it's certainly never dull. And in between the choppily edited mayhem, there are wonderfully sweet moments as well as corny sentimentality. Thankfully, it's all heading to a riotously engaging finale that offers a few satisfying twists.

cert u themes, violence 25.Jul.20

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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall