A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Animals United is a standard wild animal adventure with some gun violence -- a lion remembers when his brother was shot and killed by a hunter -- and some animal-on-animal skirmishes (the buffalo and rhinos go head to head). Language includes some insults like "dumb," "idiot," and the word "hell," and if you stay through the credits, there's a short glimpse of a koala drinking a beer in a bar. But the movie's messages are positive and encourage viewers to be more environmentally aware and attempt to help endangered animals and protect natural resources.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
The animals in an unspecified African location await the annual flood to provide them with water. When it's later than ever, Socrates the lion (voiced by Stephen Fry) discovers that it's been cut off by a nearby resort, where he's then trapped by the hotel's in-house security. Meanwhile, Socrates' friend Billy the meerkat (James Corden) -- along with a motley crew including giraffes, an elephant, a Tasmanian Devil, a displaced polar bear, two ancient tortoises, and a French rooster -- all attempt to unite the various animal factions to descend on the resort, save Socrates, and subsequently crash a global climate-change summit.
Is it any good?
Despite an outstanding voice cast, ANIMALS UNITED often feels like a sub-par copycat of a bunch of animated animal adventures, from The Lion King to Happy Feet to Madagascar. Originally a German-language film, Animals United was quite popular overseas but has been released straight to DVD in the United States. There's a reason for this. The songs are forgettable, the storyline a bit muddled, and the characters a lot less endearing than they are meant to be -- at least for adults.
Even the movie's one redeeming aspect -- the environmental message that cautions humans from assuming that the world is their playground -- is heavy handed. As a 700-year-old Galapagos tortoise, Academy Award winner Vanessa Redgrave delivers an over-the-top diatribe about why man is the reason the Earth is slowly turning into a dry, black puddle of a mess. While it's lovely to hear her distinguished voice, surely kindergartners don't need that much sermonizing in a children's film. Although younger kids might not notice Animals United's derivative nature, older children and parents will likely be bored by the story.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why animal-centered movies are so popular with kids. Animals United is reminiscent of many other animal movies, like Madagascar. How does the story contain elements that are similar to those other films?
How can people take the movie's message to heart and be more mindful of the environment? What animal and ecological causes can young kids help? How does your family help the Earth?
- On DVD or streaming: April 10, 2012
- Cast: Jim Broadbent, Stephen Fry, Vanessa Redgrave
- Director: Reinhard Klooss
- Studio: ARC Entertainment
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Wild Animals
- Run time: 93 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild thematic elements, some action and peril, rude humor and brief language
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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