Have you heard the one about the Duck, Dog, Pig, Fox, Wolf, Rabbit and Chicken?
Ernest & Celestine left a huge impression on fans of animation, a film bursting with warmth and heart that brought cartoonist and director Benjamin Renner’s hand-drawn creations to life. It went on to receive a much deserved Oscar nomination and was a wonderful reminder of how traditional animation still has a place in today’s CG-dominated world.
Now Renner has teamed up with co-director Patrick Imbert to adapt elements from his two comics The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales [Le grand mechant renard et autres contes] and Un bébé à livre. These smart and often funny stories are far more slapstick in tone and should suit an audience of under-10s just as easily as adults who aren’t stifled by the idea of indulging in juvenile humour.
Renner clearly has a knack for working with animals as he moves on from the endearing relationship of a mouse and bear to a countryside farmyard. This time we have the eponymous Fox (Giles New), Wolf (Matthew Goode), Duck (Bill Bailey), Dog (Phill Jupitus), Pig (Justin Edwards), Rabbit (Adrian Edmondson) and a Chicken (Celia Imrie) acting as stars of three different tales presented by the animals as a theatre show. An original French language version is also available but the English voice cast do a fine job of bringing these little characters to life.
The first tale is entitled “A Baby to Deliver”, introducing us to Pig and his two hapless neighbours, Duck and Rabbit. An inept stork flies into a tree leaving the trio the job of delivering a young baby to its new parents. Let’s just say they make a meal of it (no, they don’t eat the baby). The middle story is the pick of the three. Called “The Big Bad Fox” it’s about the incompetent Reynard who is bullied by Wolf into stealing a set of unhatched eggs. Once they do spring to life, he unwittingly becomes their mother and can’t convince them otherwise. Lastly, “The Perfect Christmas” follows Rabbit and Duck in their attempts to replace Santa in the belief they’ve accidentally killed him.
While it may not be as heartfelt as Ernest & Celestine that is not to say there isn’t a light emotional core to the stories, although younger minds may find it more affecting in that sense. The humour is the big winner, relying on daft slapstick and snappy humour to keep the laughs coming thick and fast. Some of the gags have a light meta tinge but mostly the jokes are as they sound – daft and timed to perfection.
The 2D animation looks like the kind found in the book corner of an old school classroom and feels more genuine and honest because of it. Much like his previous film, Renner’s drawings have a rough, sketch-like edge that adds personality to the animals, complementing the fast pace and light-hearted nature of the stories. The English voice cast features an array of experienced and talented comedians and actors, all of whom sync perfectly with their roles, with the dry delivery of Bill Bailey’s Duck and Phill Jupitus’ deadpan Dog standing out in particular.
Whether you prefer to watch the original language version, or the English alternative, The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales is 80 minutes of carefree comedy that will translate into any tongue. There’s no moral preaching and it has zero interest in sending you home with a message to remember, and it is all the better for it. Don’t waste your time waiting for a Hollywood studio comedy to make you laugh and give this a go, because it has everything you need to put a smile on your face.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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