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IN SHORT: What the you-know-what were they thinking?
9/3 addendum: When we first saw this film, there was no rating. It has since been given an [R] which should be a sure sign to keep the kids away. Still, it didn't stop any grandparent from lugging their kidlets to the [R] rated cartoon South Park so, given the "Animals" in the title . . .
The only thing that keeps me from calling All The Little Animals a thoroughly despicable flick is that it's English, and English tastes run to the quirky, to say the least. This is not, despite the catchword "Animals" in the title, a movie for the wee ones. Nor is it for us grownups, short of radical animal rights activists. In this flick anthropomorphism runs rampant and, in its full glory, delivers unto us a despicable story. It may have been an enchanting book, but we don't compare to source material. That's how it works here.
There, I said it. Go ahead and flame me, I don't care.
For a change, I am going to give the whole kit and kaboodle away.
All the Little Animals is the story of Bobby Platt (Christian Bale), a mildly brain-damaged (from a traffic accident, just like Cranky) young man of 24, who looks 18, whose brain functions at various times at an emotional level of about 6. He rarely talks. Keeps the company of a mouse named Peter. Fears and hates his step-father DeWinter (Daniel Benzali), who he blames for the death of his mother and calls "The Fat" 'cuz he's large. Picture an evil Daddy Warbucks and you'll get the picture. When the Evil Step-Father tries to force the boy into signing away his rights to his mother's property and business -- the boy's perception, but believeable -- the kidlet runs away.
So far so good, despite the Bobby's crying fits and his apparent inability to fend for himself on the most basic level. Hitching a ride in a heavy truck, said kidlet runs the truck off the road when it's driver tries to run down a fox. His overriding concern for animals confirmed, bobby hitches up with a wandering hermit named Mr. Summers (John Hurt) who buries all the animal roadkill he finds, leaves the injured human to bury himself and is, to be kind, this short of a loon. No, he's not psychopathic. No, he's not a sexual predator. He's a hypocrite who's primary directive "Kill no living thing" has been broken at least once in his life.
Summers doesn't want Bobby around, but he eventually caves. This version of Lenny and George go around the country, sabotaging evil lepidopterists and tending to the dead things they find. Eventually, Bobby tells his story to Summers and the pair return to London to settle old debts; Bobby having decided to relinquish all claims to his mother's estate.
What The Fat does to Mr Summers' neck almost had me screaming.
What Bobby does to The Fat, though he can claim self defense, does not supply the kind of relief and/or vindication we normally like to see in helpless kid versus mean and nasty grownup movies.
All The Little Animals killed on the side of the road will be buried very neatly, thank you very much. And, in the end, aren't all the little animals so much more important than how a family treats a young son, who could have (based on what we see by the end of the flick) benefited from some significant mental therapy rather than a decade or more of mind-numbing pills.
How are you going to explain all this stuff to your kids? How are you going to stomach it if you think you're getting something light and airy.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to All The Little Animals, he would have paid...
Not for anyone I know and love.
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