After three years on a shelf, Animal Crackers has finally found a home on Netflix – but it’s hard to say that this all-star animation was worth the wait.
This review of Animal Crackers (Netflix) is spoiler-free.
After being sat on a shelf somewhere for the last three years, directors Scott Christian Sava and Tony Bancroft have found a home for their low-budget, high-concept all-star animation Animal Crackers on Netflix – though given the final product it might have been better served on that shelf.
Nevertheless, if you’ve ever wondered what’d happen if you bit into an animal cracker and turned into the animal, you’re in the right place. But if you’re expecting that question to be answered in any way other than an incredibly run-of-the-mill one then you’re out of luck. In that regard, the A-list voice cast of Animal Crackers is a bit confounding; what compelled these stars to paint by numbers in a modestly-budgeted family animation aimed mainly at the kiddies and offering scant pleasures for their long-suffering parents? It’s a mystery.
The framework for the crackers question is a classic family-friendly one: the circus! In the ‘60s, Ian McKellen’s Horatio Huntington ran a traveling circus with his nice-guy brother Buffalo Bob (James Arnold Taylor), but Tara Strong got between them and Bob turned the show into a pop attraction that, decades later, is burned down to the presumed profit of Horation and his henchman Zucchini (Gilbert Gottfried). Bob’s nephew Owen (John Krasinki) has dreams of running a circus, naturally, as do his wife Zoe (Emily Blunt) and daughter Mackenzie (Lydia Rose Taylor), and blimey, looks like we have ourselves a setup here, folks.
This setup is complicated by the presence of the magical, titular animal crackers, which are supplied by an endlessly replenishing box and transform the eater into whatever animal they’ve snaffled, with a handy human cracker to turn them back into their original form where necessary. The filmmakers are very fond of this conceit to the detriment of almost every other aspect of the script, which has big archetypal roles for these seasoned actors but nowhere for them to actually take the characters. Danny DeVito plays a sad clown; in some sense, so does everybody else.
But these are good performers nevertheless, so the voice work is solid, as is the cost-saving animation, although the played-out circus vibe never really gives it an excuse to flex – there’s a lot of overly familiar imagery to match the flat-pack themes and story beats, and while Animal Crackers makes a meal of its confectionary conceit, ultimately there just isn’t much to it.