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Movie Review: 'Animal Crackers' (2017)

Your rating: None Average: 3.5 (11 votes)

Animal Crackers (trailer) is a 94-minute computer-animated children's movie. The brainchild of Scott Sava, it caught the early attention of furry fandom at least as far back as 2015. Concept animation showed a guy haphazardly munching on animal-shaped cookies that turned him into the animals. As time went on, Sava brought in financial backers, a co-director (Tony Bancroft, who'd worked on several Disney movies), and a co-writer (Dean Lorey). The finished product premiered at the Annecy Film Festival in 2017... and then vanished.

It turns out that Sava had made the mistake of not securing a distributor ahead of time. With very little bargaining power, it eventually got shown in China in 2018, and some other countries in 2019.

The film's backstory starts with two brothers, Bob and Horatio, who run a circus together. Horatio, an egomaniac, is the star of the show, and becomes consumed with jealousy when Bob marries Talia, the niece of the fortune-teller. Bob and Talia leave to start their own circus, which proves wildly successful. Horatio, obsessed with wanting to discover their secret, breaks into their place and accidentally starts a fire.

Owen and Zoe.Now let's meet Owen, our protagonist. He was adopted by Bob, grows up in the circus, falls in love and wants to marry a woman named Zoe. Zoe's father, an asshole, only consents to their marriage if Owen quits the circus and goes to work at his business, making dog biscuits. He gives Owen the worst job in the factory. Still, Owen and Zoe truly love each other and are raising a three-year-old daughter named Mackenzie.

After the fire and funeral service for Bob and Talia, Owen finds out he's inherited the circus. He isn't willing to try running it, but Zoe is. The secret of the circus' success turns out to have been a box of magic cookies that Bob received as a wedding present from Talia's aunt, a gypsy. Hijinks ensue.

On IMDB, Animal Crackers has a rating of 5.4 out of 10, which is pretty accurate. The sad thing is, watching it, you can feel the potential, it just never achieves it. It's the writing mainly; the animation is fine! Owen (voiced by John Krasinski) is a boring guy, has trouble standing up for himself, and is utterly useless at keeping the magical box safe. Zoe (Emily Blunt) is more engaging than he is, but there's not much to her either.

Horatio, who always looks after his hairstyle.Most of the characters are one-dimensional. Once you've seen their thing, that's pretty much it for the rest of the film. For example, Horatio's main incompetent henchman is "The Zucchini", whose thing is... well, being Gilbert Gottfried, and constantly referring to himself in the third person. How about a kind-hearted but annoying clown? That would be Chesterfield, voiced by Danny DeVito, whom I'm not a fan of.

On the positive side, the film pulled in some decent voice acting, hoping to benefit from star appeal. Sylvester Stallone had a small part. Patrick Warburton shows up as a high-level employee at the factory. He's got some oddly fun animation, and is also a jerk-ass. (I'm not sure if that's under orders from Zoe's father or not.) And then there's Horatio - voiced by Ian McKellen! Oh boy, does he go full ham! It's glorious. Not enough to save the movie, but I'll salvage what I can from the experience.

Owen as a horse.Now you may be wondering about the cookies. Can't talk about them without spoilers, but for you transformation people, it's the instant puff-of-smoke variety. There's a trick to changing back to human form, of course. When I described the film's plot to Tempe O'Kun, like any furry fan he immediately wondered how the magic could be experimented with. The box has rules which are largely unexplored or hand-waved away.

The cookies are a big part of the film's unreached potential. Zoe and Owen realize that their run-down circus won't be able to succeed... unless they use the box to make dazzling animal performances. So that's the circus covered. What about the film? With a title like Animal Crackers, I don't suppose the writers thought the audience would like to be entertained by... I dunno, animals?

Nope! The cookies and animals don't really become a thing until the second half of the movie, and are vastly under-used. It delivers in its dramatic climax, but I don't think the film is really worth sitting through to reach that point. So overall: Boring protagonist, one-schtick characters, under-used plot device, some good voice acting, good animation and ending. Oh, and I hope you like clowns.

Where can you find this film? ...Good question. I watched a pirated version that had occasional Chinese subtitles, and had re-named it to Magical Circus: Animal Crackers. If you do a search for it, don't confuse it with the 1930 Marx Brothers film. On the other hand, what year do you use instead? Some sites list it as 2017, others as 2018 or 2019. Maybe it'll eventually show up on one of the streaming services. Until then, you're not missing much. Might work for really young kids.

Owen as a bear, hugging his daughter.

Owen as a gorilla, attempting to serve breakfast.

Comments

Your rating: None Average: 3 (2 votes)

I may be reading too much into things, but the trailer that I saw back in the day seemed to hint at some... subtle but notable homophobia on his display here. Particularly in the form of Patrick Warburton's character. It gave me kind of a queasy feeling about the whole affair. That, and some of the dialogue (at least in the trailer) seemed really lame.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

I don't think his character shows any homophobia, but I'd need to check to make sure? His part is a small one, and I'm really baffled why they used those particularly unappealing clips in the trailer. The dialogue in the film in general could do with being turned up a notch or two. Among the weirder casting choices, Esmerelda the fortune teller is voiced by Harvey Fierstein.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

Not so much homophobia FROM the character as that character himself coming across as an unflattering gay stereotype. The way he was coming on to Krazinsky's character in such an over-bearing manner.

Your rating: None Average: 3 (2 votes)

Poof transformation? Lame. I remember the director engaged with some transformation enthusiasts on Twitter before regarding that but I don't recall what was said exactly. As I have run panels on transformation at FC, TFF and VF, I probably need to at least see this movie on principle.

I'm a different furry with different opinions.

Debut Album out now go stream it plz
https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/cassidycivet/double-take

Your rating: None Average: 4.7 (3 votes)

What a lost opportunity! That's an A-level voice cast. (I love Warburton in just about everything he does.) Never mind the absence of extended (or least partial) onscreen TF's, it sounds like story is really unfocused -- and it *always* comes down to the story. Pixar boasts how when they have the story settled, they bust it apart and start over again to make sure they can't improve on what they already have.

I've often kicked the idea around with fellow TF fans of humans voluntarily becoming animals at zoos and circuses to perform & show off for the patrons better than actual animals ever could. At closing time they'd revert to human and clock out for the day. I definitely want to see the film to see how they handle the idea and to check out the animation itself. Just too bad they couldn't show some onscreen TFs - animation is the perfect medium for that kind of magic.

- Joe

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)

Hi all!
Thank you for the review!

Just wanted to let you know that the Chinese version you watched is NOT the finished film.
The final version should be coming out this summer.

Happy to answer any questions.
Thanks
Scott

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

I'll watch it anyway. Just try and stop me.

Well, I'll be...

Your rating: None Average: 1 (2 votes)

You know, we've known each other for a while, so I think I can definitely say this, but ... you don't understand the purpose of reviews very well. Like, at all.

Your rating: None

"We" don't know each other at all. And are you suggesting I obey reviews like they are always objectively correct?

Well, I'll be...

Your rating: None

No, I'm saying you're mistaken in your belief that reviews are orders to be obeyed or not obeyed to begin with.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

Thank you. Would love to hear your thoughts.

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