Review by Rob Carnevale
THE spirit of Madagascar and the elephant from Horton Hears A Who loom large over Animals United, a noble but failed attempt to combine 3D animated family entertainment with a serious message.
Based on the 1949 novella The Animal’s Conference by Erich Kastner, and co-directed by German duo Reinhard Klooss and Tolger Happe, the film follows a group of animals, led by a mischievous meerkat (voiced by James Corden) and a vegetarian lion (Stephen Fry), as they battle against the humans responsible for depriving them of the water they need to survive in the Okavango Delta reserve.
Assisting them, meanwhile, are a polar bear (Bella Hudson) who has seen her ice kingdom start to melt, a pair of giant turtles (Jim Broadbent and Vanessa Redgrave), whose environment has been ruined by an oil spill, and a kangaroo (Jason Donovan) and Tasmanian Devil (Pete Zarustica), whose Outback has been damaged by a fire caused by a motorcyclist.
Klooss and Happe’s film is constantly at pains to point out the damaging effects man has on the environment but, early on in particular, feels laboured and preachy.
The script is pretty pedestrian, too, failing to bring the characters vividly to life (as the best animated offerings so frequently do).
But then Animals United struggles on just about every level, even failing to deliver the type of crowd-pleasing set pieces that can sometimes enliven even the most pedestrian family script.
In this regard, several sequences (and jokes) feel borrowed from better movies, such as Madagascar, while no single moment particularly stands out as funny or inspired.
The end result is a film that boasts a worthwhile message, but which continually fails to get it across. The magic of Pixar and the mirth of DreamWorks are light years apart… so don’t let the talented British voice cast fool you into thinking this might be better than it really is.
Running time: 93mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: April 25, 2011