Friday 17 December 2010

"Animals United" (The Scotsman 17/12/10)

Animals United (U) **
Directed by: Reinhard Klooss, Holger Tappe
Animation with the voices of: James Corden, Stephen Fry, Dawn French

Nobody’s yet thought to issue a Madagascar sequel in the new 3D format, so this English-language redub of an animated German success – and yes, it’s exactly that promising – is at least filling a gap in the market. Adapting Erich Kästner’s The Animal Conference, it offers a Day After Tomorrow-like enviro-primer for youngsters: faced with dwindling water supplies, a world league of species – African meerkats, giraffes and elephants, a gassy Tasmanian Devil, plus a displaced polar bear and a French cockerel – migrate towards a global climate-change summit to share their own experiences in the field.

There’s evidence of background artistry in the frequent gags of scale, but what dooms it to ordinariness are the animals themselves, so lacking in memorable characteristics that parents will most likely spend the ninety minutes guessing the celebrity voice artists earning themselves a nice Christmas bonus. Fry was probably a shoo-in as wise lion Sophocles, but casting Vanessa Redgrave as a 700-year-old tortoise seems vaguely disrespectful, and anyone who thinks a meerkat voiced by James Corden is going to replace Alexander what’s-his-name as the nation’s favourite is, shall we say, simples in the head.

Animals United opens in cinemas nationwide today.

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