A family must use a magical box of Animal Crackers to save a run-down circus from being taken over by their evil uncle Horatio P. Huntington.A family must use a magical box of Animal Crackers to save a run-down circus from being taken over by their evil uncle Horatio P. Huntington.A family must use a magical box of Animal Crackers to save a run-down circus from being taken over by their evil uncle Horatio P. Huntington.
THIS FILM IS RECOMMENDED.
IN BRIEF: Fine animation is once again upstaged by a weak unfocused book.
JIM'S REVIEW: Animal Crackers, an independent animated feature by Scott Sava has been languishing on the shelves for a number of years and has slowly resurfaced with the help of Netflix and some courtroom action. But it is the Shakespearian plotting behind-the-scenes narrative that is a more interesting story than the actual plot of the movie. Set to be released in 2017, the film was plagued with financial difficulties and political intrigue after it was bought by Weinstein Studios and resold to Chinese businessmen who interfered with the filmmaker's initial vision. Court fights and personal debt plagued the animator until recently when a certain streaming service became his lifesaver.
The film itself is a mix of creative ideas, some very well done, others unfulfilled. Based on Mr. Sava's graphic novel and inspired by those edible childhood favorite cookies, the meandering and far too convoluted scenario begins its tale with a flashback involving two brothers named Horatio and Bob Huntington who own a circus. Their eventual falling-out over a gypsy girl, Talia, leads to tragic results, which brings us to the main storyline about their nephew and present-day circus owner, Owen, his wife, Zoe, and their possession of a magical box of animal treats.
Directed by Mr. Sava and Tony Bancroft who show off enough craftsmanship from their animation department, the film follows the fate of many animated features suffering from a story that is sub-par to the visuals. A visual delight throughout, the film is undernourished by its aforementioned rambling script, written by Dean Lorey and Mr. Sava. Their plot becomes such a jumble of unprocessed notions, although I am not sure where the blame goes due to the real-life background behaviors and the mishandling of the film. Nevertheless, the well-rendered animation itself is definitely worth viewing.
The major snag with the film is its scattershot screenplay. The first half hour is merely story exposition and character development before it even kicks into the plot mechanics about the box of magical animal crackers. Then the customary action and chase sequences follow with an overabundance of snappy tune montages that do little to advance the story, except to wow you with its wonderful computer-generated visuals. Yes, there is much too see, yet too little to ponder.
But behold the film's animation skills! They may be on overdrive, with rarely a quiet moment and desperate to impress the shortest of attention spans from the youngest of moviegoers. Still, the overall look of the film is superb, for viewers of any age, with its vivid primary color palette, stylized backgrounds, and the filmmaker's obsession to the simplest details. Character design is inventive and each exaggerated figure expresses its own unique personality and sense of wonder.
And what a cast they have assembled! Voiceovers are provided by a high pedigree of skilled actors: Married couple John Krasinski and Emily Blunt as Owen and Zoe, Sir Ian McKellan and Gilbert Gottfried are the antagonists, with fine supporting work by Danny DeVito, Sylvester Stallone, Raven-Symoné, Patrick Warburton, and Harvey Fierstein. All bring their A-game to the project.
Bear McCleary's lively score includes original songs by the likes of Michael Bublé, Huey Lewis and the News, Howard Jones, and Toad the Wet Sprocket, most of which are forgettable ditties. One can see the care and lavishness doted on this personal project by so many talented people,especially noticeable is Mr. Cava's earnest passion to his "pet" project (pun intended)
Despite all the love and heartache given to this independent project and some wonderful style and flair, the end result is ultimately lacking focus. Animal Crackers has just too many half-baked ideas to become the proper cinematic sustenance it wants to be. Still one hopes Mr. Cava has better luck on his deservingly future projects.
- Jul 27, 2020