CERT: U / PLATFORMS: NETFLIX / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
It has been a bit of a long journey for Scott Christian Sava and Tony Bancroft’s Animal Crackers, an adaptation of Sava’s own graphic novel. In fact this writer wrote a preview piece on it years ago but from financial crisis to pandemics, the film has had a rougher ride to screens but has finally found its home on Netflix and it’s a warm-hearted little film that ought to keep the little ones both entertained and hopeful.
The film sees a famed circus hit hard times, when owners Bob and Talia perish in a fire, they bequeath Bob’s nephew Owen (John Krasinski) a box of animal crackers, which are the source of the circus’ magical star attractions. However, will Owen and his wife Zoe (Emily Blunt) be able to rekindle the love they had of this circus when they were kids, and how will they deal with Owen’s nefarious uncle Horatio (Ian McKellen), who believes the circus and its secrets are rightfully his to take and profit from?
Sava and Dean Lorey’s screenplay does not re-invent the wheel here, and it does take a little time to build up the steam it needs as it heads towards its cracker-induced animal shapeshifting concept. Indeed there are a few moments when it occasionally threatens to dampen some creatively exciting ideas with a few different sub-plots and techniques but eventually they bring it together nicely for a grand climax...which is actually kind of appropriate considering the plot. The action of the climax is inventive and makes the most of the film’s nice animation and character designs that remind a bit of the work of Laika.
The characters are mostly warm (save for some purposely intended to be irritating - Patrick Warburton’s corporate muscle-head suck-up Brock) and the voice work strong, with some breakouts among its pretty starry cast (McKellen is clearly having a ball as the baddie, as is Gilbert Gottfried as the delusions of grandeur henchman who narrates his own life, and Sylvester Stallone has a surprising character in Bullet-Man). Likewise Bear McCreary’s music has its moments too and meshes well with some good visual colour and pop.
Animal Crackers is not perfect but it’s a good directorial debut for Sava that is ultimately fun and offers families a wacky afternoon’s viewing, with an uplifting final note and, in these tough times, that’s a good thing to strive for and achieve.