It takes a special kind of director to get a very unconventional film with a lot of creative ideas and an original approach or style produced and distributed by Hollywood. Fortunately, Wes Anderson has somehow – and don’t ask me how – found a way to get his bizarre art projects out there time and time again, but Hollywood still has its concerns about how audiences may be alienated by an Anderson-level of creativity. I shared the same concerns when I put this movie up on the big screen in my family’s house and let whoever wanted to see it join me. It was hard for me to tell how they would react – and even how I would react – since the combination of elements this film has is so bizarre.
The first thing to note is that this is, in the end, and animated children’s film, and the movie’s trailers delight in reminding the viewer of that. Many of the jokes have the feeling of those in kids’ films, as do the messages about family and accepting one’s own differences and the collective coming together to save their way of life and such. The film uses famous pop music, like most kids’ movies, but this one features “Heroes & Villains.” The film has a cast of celebrities, like most kids’ movies, but this features Meryl Streep, George Clooney, and Michael Gambon. Oddly, the actors’ talents are almost wasted on a film with such dry performances – the tone of most of the humor is sort of awkwardly colorless (not in a bad way) which is perhaps best compared to the old “Peanuts” specials. What’s most strange, of course, is that this lifeless tone is part of the visual style too: Anderson’s trademarked mix of warm colors with cold, mechanical form.
Interestingly, my 17-year-old brother loved it, and considers it one of his favorite movies, but I still didn’t know what a child would think. Then my little sister walked in about halfway through, and she also loved it (particularly for the fun song about the villains, but also because she’s a Dahl fan). Of course, what I’m most happy about is that I liked it. I can’t get into everything about Wes Anderson’s style – he and I have different tastes in terms of desired affects – but by and large, this movie is for me. It’s such a funny, charming, unique, and creative spin on the genre of animated children’s films that I can’t help but appreciate it.