By Renee Longstreet,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Fantastical tale has wacky characters, music, cartoon peril.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Intended to entertain rather than educate.
Promotes determination, creativity, resourcefulness, and standing up for yourself. Persevere and follow your dreams; don't give up easily. Families working together can accomplish great things.
Positive Role Models
While the main female character is strong and independent all along, her husband must find his courage and willingness to take risks. Parents are dependable, loving, and encouraging. Villain is an over-the-top comic blowhard who'll stop at nothing to gain power and get revenge. While there's ethnic diversity, two overweight characters are portrayed in a farcical way: a circus fat lady and a clown who overeats. And there's a stereotypical gypsy fortune-teller.
Violence & Scariness
Cartoon action includes chases, falls, wild driving sequences, and narrow escapes. A car runs over a motorcyclist (who immediately recovers). Ferocious animals, as well as a mythological monster, face off and fight. A heroic lion falls and momentarily appears dead. A fire destroys a circus tent; two owners are thought to have died and are mourned. Two grown-up bullies.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Loving kisses and cartoon smooches. A few skimpy circus costumes.
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Multiple instances of "butt." Villain frequently insults his aides: "nincompoop," "feather-brain," "sap," "booby," "fool," nitwit."
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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: PG
- MPAA explanation: rude humor and action
- Last updated: April 27, 2023
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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