Directors: Patrick Imbert & Benjamin Renner
Release date:
June 15, 2017
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

One of the more pleasant developments of the 21st century was the coming of animated feature films, the whole purpose of which was to make people laugh. One could say this trend started off with the successful ‘South Park, Bigger, Longer & Uncut’ (1999), and like that film these films were mostly off-shoots from series (‘The Simpsons Movie’ and the Spongebob Squarepants movies from 2004, 2015 and 2021) or offshoots from other films (‘Minions’ from 2015, ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ from 2017).

But occasionally, a film comes to you, which is both very funny, and totally original, even if it’s based on an earlier comic strip, like the Franco-Belgian feature ‘Le grand méchant renard et autres contes…’. The film is co-directed by Benjamin Renner, one of the producers of the attractive, if flawed ‘Ernest et Célèstine’ from 2012, and the original author of the comic strip, ‘Le grand méchant renard et autres contes…’. . Both comic strip and movie aim for the laughs, and are highly successful at it, too.

The film is advertised as a children’s film, and it certainly is fit for all ages, but don’t let this fool you. There’s nothing childish about this film. Instead, we get high quality cartoon comedy, perfectly animated and perfectly timed.

Based on three separate stories, ‘Le grand méchant renard et autres contes…’ is an anthology film, bridged by the idea of a play performed by the main characters. As soon as the first tale starts, the backdrop changes into the scenery in which all three stories take place: a farm in the countryside.

In the first film a stork talks a pig, a duck, and a rabbit into delivering a baby for him to his parents. Unfortunately, the baby must be delivered in faraway Avignon, and sadly for the pig both the duck and the rabbit are as incapable as they are optimistic. This tale is chockfull of cartoon slapstick, as the duck and the rabbit keep on thinking more and more outlandish schemes to deliver the baby, while the pig desperately tries to keep the little one safe.

The next story is a little cuter and involves a totally inept fox who teams up with a lazy and selfish wolf. The wolf talks the fox into stealing some eggs to raise them into fat chickens, but of course the fox grows attached to the little ones. Nevertheless, this tale, too, moves and shifts into surprising directions, and is less straightforward than this summary.

The third and final story is a genuine Christmas story, which sees the happy return of the pig, duck, and rabbit trio of the first part. This time, duck and rabbit think they’ve killed Father Christmas, and make resolutions to deliver the presents themselves… General mayhem is ensured.

The film uses a very charming drawing style, which like the earlier ‘Ernest et Célèstine’ consists of watercolor backgrounds and fake watercolor-coloring of characters, open lines and appealing character designs, which more or less fit in a long and diverse Franco-Belgian cartoon style tradition. The film is continuously pleasant to look at, and the attractive score, by Robert Marcel Lepage, adds to the film’s charm, as well. Scored for a small ensemble, Lepage makes excellent use of some familiar themes, like the morning theme from Giachino Rossini’s Overture ‘William Tell’, the wolf theme from Sergei Prokofiev’s ‘Peter and the Wolf’, and in the last story, ‘Jingle Bells’.

In all, ‘Le grand méchant renard et autres contes…’ once again shows that France is one of the most interesting animation film-producing countries around. Recommended to all.

Watch the trailer for Le grand méchant renard et autres contes… (The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales) yourself and tell me what you think:

Le grand méchant renard et autres contes… (The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales) is available on Blu-Ray and DVD

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