Animal Crackers

Movie Information

Lucas McKee, Xpress' rising 3rd Grader movie critic, and Edwin Arnaudin offer takes on Netflix's all-star animated comedy.
Genre: Animated/Comedy
Director: Tony Bancroft and Scott Christian Sava
Starring: The voices of John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Ian McKellen, Danny DeVito
Rated: G

Blessed with an all-star vocal cast and a creative premise, the animated comedy Animal Crackers has been in distribution limbo for three years — a potentially troubling detail that, coupled with a fairly bumpy start, may give viewers unnecessary pause.

Co-directors Tony Bancroft (Mulan) and newcomer Scott Christian Sava (who also co-wrote the film, based on his graphic novel) squeeze in a ton of entertaining setup in a matter of minutes regarding the evil Horatio P. Huntington (Ian McKellen, relishing the villainy) and his exile from Buffalo Bob’s Animal Circus.

From there, Animal Crackers stagnates for a stretch while slowly advancing to the next plot point, yet sufficiently establishes the strong familial bond between Owen (John Krasinski), his wife, Zoe (Emily Blunt), and their young daughter, Mackenzie (Lydia Rose Taylor), as well as Owen’s desire to quit working as a dog biscuit taste-tester for his father-in-law, Mr. Woodley (Wallace Shawn, in peak exasperated form).

Likewise problematic is the independently financed film’s visual style, particularly the character design of its human players — which are several levels above basic computer-animated creations but only occasionally show flashes of major studio slickness.

But once Owen is bequeathed the circus and eats the first titular snack — which turns him into the specific beast the cookie resembles — the film hits its groove and rarely lets up. As our hero figures out how to wow the growing crowds with the range of animals available to him, the jokes land more consistently, the increase in big-top action (cued to the likes of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”) revs up the pace, and the animation — which lends itself far better to creatures than people — looks as good as any genre peer this year.

Additional appeal comes courtesy of the identifiable voice work, including the real-life husband-and-wife rapport of Blunt and Krasinski, Danny DeVito as the circus’s affable clown Chesterfield, and a textbook live-wire Gilbert Gottfried as Horatio’s top henchman Mario Zucchini, who refers to himself in third-person and hilariously doesn’t quite understand the meaning of the word “henchman.”

Strong as Animal Crackers’ comedy is during this concluding run, it wouldn’t work nearly as well without the plentiful sense of heart that its creators and cast establish from the start. In that sense, the overlong opening act is largely justified, but there’s also the feeling that a more streamlined narrative would have allowed the film to achieve its full potential. 3 1/2 stars —Edwin Arnaudin

If I could, I would give this movie more than 5 stars. It’s funny, entertaining and good for everyone to watch.

The movie starts with Horatio, a character who wants to make money by working at the circus, but his brother Bob just wants to entertain people. They have an argument, and Horatio makes Bob choose between Bob living with Talia, a girl he likes, or Horatio leaving the circus. Bob chooses Talia, and Horatio goes away.

The movie is mainly about Bob’s nephew, Owen, who quits working at the circus and takes a dog biscuit taste-testing job working for his father-in-law. He keeps eating dog biscuits until he tastes the ones that are good. Almost all of them are bad. He also works with company scientist Binkley on a machine that makes dog biscuits taste like people food. One of them tastes like vinegar (yuck!).

Owen wants to see the circus one more time with his wife, Zoe. When he’s there, he wants to join the circus again, so he quits his dog biscuit job. His job in the circus is to actually be the animals after he eats the magical animal crackers.

Zucchini, a bad guy, is very funny because he narrates all of the bad things that keep happening to him, like when he lands in cow manure and gets pricked by cacti. He also keeps calling Horatio his “henchman” when Zucchini is really supposed to be doing the work. Horatio is trying to take back control of the circus.

One of my favorite parts is when Owen is a horse and is about to jump from way up high, down into a fishbowl. He holds a salmon cracker in his mouth, eats the cracker and then lands in the fishbowl because he turns into a fish. All of the different animals Owen turns into are really fun.

The movie is very good, and I wish I could tell you what happens at the end. You’ll have to watch the movie to find out. 5 stars Lucas McKee

Available to stream via Netflix


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