Cartoon Saloon is great at that. The Kilkenny-based studio behind The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea has become a powerhouse in recent years. His atmospheric 2D films, using ancient Celtic imagery, and the engaging traditional narratives that come with it, set his work apart from the horrific disasters that plagued family entertainment during the days of Lightyear and the League of Super Pets. It's the Haunted Cartoon Saloon. a ruined church and carefully stained stained glass.
The great Wolfwalkers of 2020 have already covered it (my review, I'm glad to know, starts with the same opening paragraphs as this one), but My Father's Dragon could do a lot more to strengthen the role of Cartoon Saloon. as a necessary counterbalance to the rest of your child's movie diet. It's not because Nora Twomey's lavish, albeit voluminous, adaptation of Ruth Stiles Gannett's 1948 novel represents another creative breakthrough for Ireland's top animation studio, it's not.
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, from its standard story about a boy who runs away from home (voiced by Jacob Tremblay, of course), to a group of very funny talking animals, to a silly song played over the credits. And while many of these Gannett-inspired tropes have eternal timelessness, it's hard not to ignore the cultural specificity that's so inseparable from Cartoon Saloon's previous work, particularly through the Irish mystique of Tomm Moore's folklore trilogy, but also in political history. . This is the backdrop to Twomey's adaptation of The Breadwinner, about an 11-year-old girl in Taliban-controlled Kabul.
In contrast, "My Father's Dragon" is a broader story aimed at a younger audience. Rather than being set in a specific time and place, the plot begins with a sketchy midcentury American Midwest, where the cheerful, resourceful young hero works as a cashier at his unmarried mother's grocery store. When a recession forces Dela (Goldshifteh Farahani) to close her shop, she and Elmer relocate to a grim metropolis called Nevergreen City, a rainy blue place where Fritz Lang could act out bedtime stories. Starting from scratch scares Dela more than parents want their children to understand, and the burden of her fear soon becomes a struggle as Elmer flees the streets… where he's training a talking cat (Whoopi Goldberg). to a wild island with the promise of meeting a dragon that can solve all his problems. Why? no problem If you were offered a ride across the ocean by an adorable talking whale that looks like a bath toy and is voiced by Judy Greer, you probably wouldn't bid on the details.
If the film's storybook visual style soon bears Cartoon Saloon's trademark — a digital watercolor of the studio's now-iconic Two and a Half Kings animation, though Twomey used it to describe the novel in homage to the original illustrations — was it "once upon a time?" once upon a time." The setting and plot of "Once Upon a Time" seem completely at odds with everything that makes "Wolfwalker" so special. Emotions are heightened when Elmer arrives at Wild Island and befriends the lovable young dragon as part of the dragon's rite of passage. who has.
Boris, the dog-like animal voiced by the cute Gaten Matarazzo, is as creepy as a hand puppet and wears a red horn on his head like a party hat he can never take off. And while it's unclear how he can help Elmer, it's no secret how Elmer can help him in return: Boris is bound and guided by Saiwa the gorilla (Ian McShane), who runs Wild Island and will do whatever it takes to serve the beasts. forced who lived there before sinking into the sea. Collective Fear is as close to the plot as a very episodic film, as Elmer's decision to release Boris terrorizes every living thing on Savage Island, setting off a power struggle between Saiwa and his only rival, Chris O' a monkey. burns Dowd.
If the instant chemistry between Elmer and Boris is fuel enough to keep some young viewers distracted for the 30 minutes they've been waiting to recover, that energy should also propel the film along with its unexpected twists and turns. with the animals bringing their heroes to the maturity they await. The scattered ride adds a bit of interscene fabric, leaving Jeff and Mychael Danna's mesmerizing string and flute soundtrack to open up a logical gap for older audiences to swallow wholeheartedly.
If this weren't Cartoon Saloon, Meg LeFauve's script might fall apart long before it reaches its heart-wrenching conclusion, which tasks them with confronting some harsh truths they're forced to figure out in their childhood. But the good news: My Father's Dragon is a cartoon saloon film, and the genuine sincerity of the studio's work gives special life to the less exciting scenes in its more anonymous features (for example, the inimitable Anohni's saccharine end-credits song is unbelievably beautiful and could never be anyone else's). mixed with the voice).
The geometric richness of the film's design combines with extraordinary vocal performances to create unforgettable characters out of thin air, like the aggressive crocodile whose head is so long it can only be seen in profile; He was carrying a cute baby crocodile between his teeth, which meant Alan Cumming had to hang most of his jokes with a mouthful. Unlike the jokes and sarcasm that are included throughout such films. Talking animals abound, but it's hard not to see a tiger with a round head shaped like a parade balloon, or to be amused by Jackie Earle Haley's manic screams from Tamir the tarsier, or to be amused by Diane's voice. Wiest(!) approaches a rhino he wants to protect, and Saiwa trusts him because he doesn't seem to express the same fear that keeps him awake at night.
But Elmer and Boris are the real protagonists, with the strange bravery of two boys struggling to figure things out for themselves in the races they run in friendship. "I'll lay down my life for you!" Boris said five seconds after the meeting. "I will dry up the seas with fire and destroy the mountains for you with my roar!" It didn't matter that he couldn't actually do those things—he was amazed at the chance to flip the script and make Elmer feel fearless. But "Dragon of My Father" is ultimately able to pack a real emotional punch without losing sight of the idea that it's okay to be scared; that growing up is not denying your fears, but finding the strength to share them. And that's what Elmer did when he told this story to his daughter, who tells us here.
"My Father's Dragon" opens in select theaters on Friday, November 4. It will be available to stream on Netflix from Friday 11th November.
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