This European digimation replays the Biblical story of Noah from the animals’ viewpoint. Does it sink or swim?
Here are two groups of 21st century computer animations; see which one you instinctively respond to. In Group A: Shrek, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles. In Group B: Fly Me to the Moon, Planet 51, A Turtle Tale: Sammy’s Adventures. The former doubtless rang more bells: these are, after all, the polished American megahits that have become prized DVD possessions since the millennium. Group B is made up of European wannabes: films that were redubbed and floated around the continent before settling in the 24-hour garage bargain bin.
German-Belgian co-production Two by Two constitutes prime Group B fodder: it takes a story Pixar or DreamWorks would have punched up, and instead does little of note with it. It is, at least, a workable idea: to do the Noah story from the POV of two species who went the way of the Dodo – she-wolves the Grymps and the Nestrians, male mini-mammoths who emit farty clouds of blue gas whenever they get scared. That they do this a lot, however, indicates the level the script’s working at.
Much about Toby Genkel’s film recalls Finding Nemo: the seascapes that might have been a wow back in 2003, the quest narrative that separates younger Grymps and Nestrians from their elders, even the characters’ Day-Glo shading. Yet there’s nothing comparably funny, charming or exciting in this digitised grab bag: with its references to kung fu and Tetris, it retains as much Biblical heft as the Ice Age movies, and the best it has by way of celebrity voice power is The One Show’s Chris Evans. (Was Alan Carr busy?)
In some ways, it’s just another victim of the great wave of computer animation that followed Pixar’s big splash: what might once have seemed seaworthy matinee entertainment has come, after the deluge, to seem soggy indeed. Perhaps never quite this soggy, though. The trouble with Two by Two isn’t strictly that it’s a Group B proposition, but that it sinks somewhere towards the bottom of Group B: product that doesn’t just kill time but embalm it, bury it, and then expects parents and guardians to pay way over the odds for it.
Two by Two is now playing in cinemas nationwide.