RogerBW's Blog

Le grand méchant renard et autres contes 29 March 2019

2017 French animation, dir. Patrick Imbert, Benjamin Renner; IMDb / allmovie. vt The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales

The countryside is not as peaceful a place as one might expect, as comedic bunglers try to do the right thing and are appropriately punished for it.

This is the thing that Renner and Imbert worked on next after their Academy-nominated Ernest and Célestine; but don't expect the quiet profundity of that film. This is farce and slapstick, done gloriously in the grand cartoon tradition.

There's a (literal) framing story of sorts, a very amateur theatrical production which introduces us gently to the characters, and three individual chapters which build slightly on each other. In the first, Pork, Bunny and Duck find themselves delivering a baby for a stork with a broken wing (because the tree just reached up and hit him, no really it did); in the second, Fox is caught between his theoretical ally Wolf and the baby chicks he's stolen (who of course regard him as their mother), with a lovely sideline in the Hens' Self-Defence Collective; in the third, Pork, Bunny and Duck find that they have to Save Christmas. That last part is perhaps a little weaker than the others, but it holds together nonetheless. I found myself particularly enjoying Dog, in theory the farm's guardian in the second and third chapters, who just wants a quiet life.

Animation is surely computer-assisted, but has a hand-drawn look to it, and the characters' expressions are superb, capturing nuances of feeling in a way that most animators aren't allowed the time to do right. (A passing glimpse of a Totoro in a box of Christmas decorations reveals one obvious influence.) The backgrounds are also excellent, being mostly simple but always informative and expressive.

Children would probably enjoy this too, but adults shouldn't be bored.

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