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Mabrouk El Mechri
Jean-Claude Van Damme,
The clever fox, his irritating buddy rat, and their lackluster adventure
The authors of the famed 'Reynard' fable would evidently roll in their grave if they watched Thierry Schiel's frivolous and enormously mind-numbing computer-animated film adaptation, which is not only excessively tedious and formulaic, but also completely fails to inspirationally encapsulate the central satire of the original literary work. As much as I salute Schiel's endeavor to boost the reputation of his Oniria Productions animation studio, I must as well admit that his effort on 'Le roman de Renart' has not paid off great.
Unlike the all-time Walt Disney classics, Pixar blockbusters or even some of DreamWorks' previous excursions into the 3D animated genre, 'Le roman de Renart' regrettably lacks the essential formula that makes a typical cartoon or a computer-generated flick so lively and enthralling: the magic! Sure, you might never want to compare a Luxembourgish animated feature to a Hollywood production when it comes to the development of special effects technology, but as far as the story and the depth of the characters are concerned, the effort here could have been way bigger
The plot, then, circles on Renart the fox (Frédéric Diefenthal), a quick-witted and rascally thief who occasionally steals food from the wealthy to properly nourish his necessitous family. His worst enemy is a malicious wolf named Isengrim, who continuously strives to wrongly accuse Renart of the most dreadful crimes to finally put him behind bars. So far though, all his risky attempts to catch the able-bodied fox have resulted in a series of embarrassing failures.
One night, when Renart sneaks into the palace of King Leo in order to plunder a delicate buffet, he accidentally overhears quite an interesting conversation between Isengrim and Chancellor Bernard about an ancient parchment depicting the secret location of the elixir of eternal life. As fate would have it, Renart quickly lays a paw on the precious document, and thus decides to plunge into a perilous adventure during which incredible dangers await him.
Accompanied by Rufus (Lorant Deutsch), a babbling and panicky little rat with an uninterrupted appetite, Renart will as well have to cope with Isengrim, who's always closely on the fox's trails. Who will win the race to the location of the elixir, which is said to being guarded by a merciless monster called Pierre? And will Renart be able to endure Isengrim's false accusations?
The answers to these questions are pretty obvious, or would you rather watch the evil wolf triumph at the end of a long, annoying journey across repetition-town? Unfortunately, that's exactly what 'Le roman de Renart' feels like; with static and irritating characters, a monotonous plot and a flat sense of humor on board, this Luxembourgish animated family film is certainly no exhilarating fun ride. You will not stumble across anything you haven't seen yet, and apart from an uninspiring repetition of dragging events, the film is void of anything remotely appealing, charming, or suspenseful.
Turing a celebrated medieval fable into a computer-generated motion picture for kids is an exceptionally tricky business: the younger audiences might not care about whether the satire from the original texts has been appropriately adapted or not, but the parents certainly look for either references or parallels, which they unfortunately will not find. And without the traditional themes of the story, what's left to discover in this flick? Barely anything, I'm afraid.
Thierry Schiel's version of 'Le roman de Renart' only sloppily emphasizes on the criminal- fox-turning-good concept, and tries to spellbind the spectators with a constant repeating of brainless chases: it's either Isengrim chasing Renart, or Renart trying to trick Isengrim. The sense of humor falls overly flat, and the feature running length of 100 minutes seems eternal. Frankly, I really doubt if any kid who has already seen and loved any of the Pixar adventures, will actually take any pleasure in this fox.
Bottom of the line: In spite of the fact that his previous animated adventure 'Tristan & Iseut' already fatally crashed, Thierry Schiel nevertheless decided to go for it again with 'Le roman de Renart'. I couldn't locate any improvements worth mentioning though in his latest work, and my only advice to him is: take a break from motion picture making and turn to the writing and directing of computer-generated short films instead the result may be more innovative than this 'Reynard' mess. (Grade: D+)
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