Being teased for his color, Johnny the white koala joins a traveling carnival with Hamish, a Tasmanian devil, and Higgens, a photographer monkey as talent agents. On the way through the ...
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Being teased for his color, Johnny the white koala joins a traveling carnival with Hamish, a Tasmanian devil, and Higgens, a photographer monkey as talent agents. On the way through the Australian outback desert, the trailer they are in comes loose and crashes. Johnny must live up to the hero status Hamish presents him as while the outback locals try to rescue a kidnapped koala from Bog, a giant crocodile and his dingo lackeys.Written by
Watching 'Outback' online, as someone who loves animation and was drawn in by that it had talent like Tim Curry, Alan Cumming and Frank Welker on board (am indifferent to Rob Schneider though), generally found it a watchable but uneven film.
Can definitely see though why there are people who dislike 'Outback'. The Australian accents are distractingly broad and overdone, especially Rob Schneider as Mac the Kangaroo (who he reputedly voices on top of the hero Johnny) and, as much as it pains me to say it, Tim Curry (love him to bits but accents weren't always his forte and this was one of his worst, sounding like he was chewing on very sticky toffee at the time). One has to give credit that there wasn't a mishmash though, which would have been bizarre and confusing, like there was in some animated films personally seen recently (i.e. 2014's 'Ribbit').
Those who want depth in their films will be disappointed here. The only character to get any development is Johnny, and it's actually done well, he is a hero that is a diamond in the rough but has a heart of gold. The others are basically archetypes and one does get the sense that there are too many characters here to make them properly interesting. In particular, there didn't need to be as many villains as there were, the mix of animals was a strange one and it was better off having just Bog and Boris (maybe Blacktooth too but giving him more lines) because they were the only villains that had any degree of intrigue. The script does have humour, pathos and adventure, but could have executed them more frequently and consistently.
Story-wise it's interesting for the concept of having an albino koala, which was a good way of emphasising to younger audiences that different doesn't mean weird, and has a colourful beginning and a tense, exciting climax (without being too scary). It does tread quite familiar ground though and not only feels narratively flimsy and predictable but it also keeps going off on a tangent once the conflict is introduced and gets disjointed and tonally confused. The character designs are a bit stiff and not particularly representative of how technology/CGI has advanced over time and the synchronisation of voices and mouth movements is not always together and can be sloppy.
However, the Australian Outback scenery is beautifully rendered and there are some lovely colours throughout. The music is suitably peppy and accompanies the action very appropriately.
Voice acting is not perfect, particularly in the accent department, but there are standout good performances. Schneider should have been a disaster as Johnny, considering Johnny's personality when reading the synopsis Schneider on paper sounds completely wrong, but he wisely reigns in and is surprisingly likable. Frank Welker proves why he is one of the all-time greats in voice acting and Curry, despite the accent and having little to do, Curry makes the most of the chief henchman Blacktooth. The voice acting honours though go to Alan Cumming, who has a ball as the principal antagonist (actually an effectively sinister if under-developed, his motivation wasn't made clear, one).
'Outback' has enough moments of amusing humour, poignant pathos and some tense but never traumatising peril scenes. It gets off to a colourful start and ends on an exciting note, but the in-between is uneven and at times meandering (if never dull in pacing). Really liked what was done with the protagonist and appreciated the messages and values the film teaches.
All in all, watchable but uneven. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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