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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Animal Crackers is an animated family-friendly comedy with magic, music, and plenty of cartoon peril in a circus setting. It moves fast, with a busy story and lots of imaginative, quirky characters to follow. There's a jealous, bullying villain who wants to take back the circus he abandoned years earlier and will do anything to make it happen. Action includes chases, falls, wild rides/crashes, fierce animals fighting, and a threatening mythic monster. A fire, shown from a distance, destroys the big tent, presumably with the owners inside. Insults used include "nincompoop," "nitwit," "sap," "fool," and "feather-brain." While there are messages of perseverance and teamwork and some ethnic diversity, viewers will also see a couple of stereotypical/farcical characters (a circus fat lady, a clown who overeats, a gypsy) and a few skimpy costumes. The movie is recommended for kids who can distinguish between real and pretend violence. Voice actors include Ian McKellen, John Krasinksi, and Emily Blunt.
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What's the story?
Ownership of a circus with magical animals is at the heart of story in ANIMAL CRACKERS. Decades earlier, the circus was owned by two brothers, Buffalo Bob (voiced by James Arnold Taylor) and Horatio P. Huntington (Ian McKellen), who is still angry and jealous about their breakup over the love of Talia (Tara Strong), the daughter of Esmerelda (Harvey Fierstein), the circus fortune teller. Horatio returns, after fuming for years, looking for the secret of the circus animals' magic. His search leads to a disastrous fire in which Bob and Talia are killed. Horatio's attempts to take the circus back in the face of anger of the performers, led by Chesterfield The Clown (Danny DeVito), are rejected. Bob's nephew Owen (John Krasinksi) and his wife Zoe (Emily Blunt), who are Bob's heirs and have always loved the circus, join the fray and the twisty-turny battle for the big top, with literal "animal crackers" in the main ring, begins in earnest.
Is it any good?
An ambitious effort with a stellar cast and quirky characters may just be too much of a good thing; keeping up with the crazy plot and introduction of new faces is a full-time job. John Krasinski alone appears as countless creatures, all of whom at least have bushy blue eyebrows so they're recognizable as "Owen." Working with a low budget and a busy script, certain folks stand out even among such a talented cast list: Raven-Symone and Patrick Warburton are terrific, and Ian McKellan chews the CGI scenery with gusto. The 14-song soundtrack (mostly original) is just okay. Animal Crackers is fun, but don't look away as it all happens fast.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the cartoon action in Animal Crackers. Do you think the fact that the violence is comic makes a difference for kids? How about little kids? How does your family decide when they are ready to see slapstick action? Why is it important to be aware of the impact of media violence on kids?
It took a long time before Owen was able to take a stand against Zoey's dad, Mr. Woodley (voiced by Wallace Shawn). What made him finally find his courage? Why is it important to stand up to bullies? What positive qualities does it take?
If you had a box of magical animal crackers, which animal would you pick? Why? What makes that animal "right" for you? Draw a picture of the animal you chose.
- On DVD or streaming: July 24, 2020
- Cast: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Ian McKellen
- Directors: Tony Bancroft, Scott Christian Sava
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Brothers and Sisters, Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Music and Sing-Along, Wild Animals
- Character strengths: Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: July 30, 2020
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