Movie review: 'Mosley' (2019)
Mosley (trailer) is a 2019 computer-animated children's film that showed up on furry fandom's radar about six years ago as Beast of Burden. Written and directed by American animator Kirby Atkins, it was a labor of love that had been in various stages of development for over 15 years. The movie was finally brought to life thanks to a collaboration between animation studios in New Zealand and China. I enjoyed it!
The story takes place in an alternative, pre-industrialized Earth, that includes "thoriphants", an intelligent, quadrupedal, elephant-like species forced into servitude by mankind to do labor like horses and donkeys. Fully sentient and able to talk, Mosley, along with his pregnant mate Bera and his young son Rue, are the property of a disgruntled farmer. When Rue discovers a cave with drawings of bipedal, anthropomorphic thoriphants, Mosley must confront the possibility that the legendary tales of the "Uprights" might be true. Soon he'll be on a quest to find out.
I've not provided a link to the film's Wikipedia page, to avoid spoilers. It's not a complicated film, but it did have a couple of little surprises along the way. IMDB gives it a rating of 6.4 out of 10. I'd say it's more of a 6.8. Not quite a 7, but damn close. To be honest, based on the 6.4, I wasn't expecting much, except... I kept watching.
Usually, my attention span wanders when I'm watching a kid's film. That didn't happen here! And yet there's nothing super-remarkable about it. The story moves along, not especially rapidly, but also it didn't feel like there was any useless filler. The story beats are simple and steady. I think maybe what caught my attention was the sheer contrast from having watched Dragon Rider last week. Nothing in Mosley felt really stupid; there was a relatively higher amount of respect towards its audience. It was... well, nice.
To be more specific, Mosley is a light adventure film, not a comedy. There are two antagonists; a minor but persistent redneck snake-oil salesman, and an intimidating thoriphant hunter that you do not want to mess with. There are funny moments (including a character trying a bit too hard), but laughs aren't driving the story. It even tugged at my heartstrings a couple of times. Nothing major, still, it was definitely doing something.
I'm also the kind of viewer who tends to think about the story universe, asks questions, and nit-picks. It's really easy to do that here, and nothing gets answered. I could talk about geography, climate, dead-ness of trees, or mystical stuff that happens. Why are some things the way they are in the film? I have no idea. It's better if you don't over-think any of it. The biggest nit-pick I'll point out happens at the start of the film. There's an introduction, followed by a jump forward in time. One character ages a lot, while three other characters don't age at all. That was hard to ignore. The rest of the film? I rolled with it. Could have used more exposition for the mythology, but it wasn't crucial.
Animation quality? Good! A couple things happen off-camera that I was ok with. There were also some moments of conflict, during which it was very easy to follow the action. Music? Good! Voice acting? Good, if you don't mind the rednecks. Kirby Atkins, the film's writer/director, also voices Mosley's character. His daughter Leah is the voice for Rue, the young thoriphant calf. At first she slurred her words to the point that I turned on the subtitles, but then she got better, or I acclimatized. The best voice actor was John Rhys-Davies, and after watching the film I found out that Lucy Lawless had been involved too.
Would I recommend this film? Yes! Definitely an overlooked movie, good for kids and their parents. It's a decent watch, as long as you're not expecting things at the level of Pixar or Ghibli. Unfortunately I'm not subscribed to any streaming services, so I don't know where you can currently watch it, but if you get the chance, it's worth a look. The running time is 96 minutes.