A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Good defeats evil. A society in which one "species" is all-powerful and threatens everyone must not be allowed to prevail. Strong bonds between family members or between friends cannot be broken. Redemption is possible.
Positive Role Models
Animals stand in for humans (anthropomorphism) and are readily identifiable. The good guys (righteous wolves and an underclass of "no-fangs") rise above their natural fear to behave bravely, capably, and with integrity. Only one hero, who is tortured and brainwashed into submission, behaves badly before he ultimately is redeemed. The villains are cads through and through, with no compassion, empathy, or sense of right and wrong. They appear to be animal counterparts to historical 20th-century human tyrants. Confirming that notion, two characters -- a hedgehog tailor who has a Jewish name and mannerisms, and a gypsy woman who has mystical powers -- are victims of the ruling class.
Violence & Scariness
Because of the eerie, suspenseful music and the intensity of the evil, the violence has a different feel from the usual comic and/or exaggerated mayhem in most animation made for kids. These heroes appear to be in real peril. Ferocious boars chase an innocent rabbit in a lengthy sequence. Heroes are stalked, hunted, fired upon with an assortment of weapons, captured, tortured (mostly off-camera), and imprisoned. They're thrown into dungeons and menaced by hungry bears, and they become the prey of savage carnivores. In one mealtime scene, young living chicks are served to the assembled beasts of prey and rapidly gobbled up. Bunny Tom appears to be dead for a brief time.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some mild sexual innuendo: There are reference to a wolf's nudity and need for clothing; a rabbit reacts while watching an off-camera pig undressing; a chanteuse/vixen behaves seductively. These incidents are brief and can be expected to go over the heads of most kids.
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Profanity: "bastard," "ass." Name-calling: "stupid," "idiot" "lazy," "jerk," "hussy," "dummy," "spineless hick," "schmuck." Characters spend time cleaning up bear poop.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Several scenes show characters drinking from wine and champagne glasses in social settings. It's later revealed that they're drinking the blood of does and fawns.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Wolfy: The Incredible Secret is a French animated import (dubbed in English) with its roots in more serious concepts than are usual for kids in the United States. The story is an anti-fascist allegory with all the obligatory elements: a ruthless leader, an elite corps of followers, collaborators, a military presence, and the brave resistance force hiding out in the woods. Thinly veiled stereotypes (a frightened Jewish tailor, a curse-wielding gypsy woman, a femme fatale chanteuse courting favor with the ruler) heighten the connection to mid-20th-century European history. Only sporadically funny, and then with laughs elicited mostly from sexual innuendo and exaggerated interspecies cruelty, the film's cartoon action includes fierce battles, the threat of being eaten by predators, scary creatures (tooth-baring, red-eyed enemies), heroic animals held in captivity, torture (off-camera sounds only), and brainwashing. The celebratory social drink is deer blood. Brutality toward "lesser" species is frequent, along with name-calling, insults, and occasional profanity ("ass," "bastard"). Spoiler alert: The hero grieves when he's heartlessly told that his mother is dead; in reality, she's alive. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
It isn't clear who the target U.S. audience is for this film. A 2014 Cesar Award (the French Oscars) for Best Animation, it's a strange combination of fine, original hand-drawn art, a few likable characters to root for, lethal villains, and very dire circumstances in which the society in play is very reminiscent of mid-20th-century European fascism. The exaggerated bad guys in American cartoons for kids, which include the mad scientist, the greedy tycoon, the mustache-twirling seeker of power, and the cackling witch, give way here to interspecies prejudices, a quest for domination, and real blood lust. There are no fanciful, farcical pratfalls, careening high-speed chases, lightning bolts, or whooshing explosions. Instead, the snarling big cats stalking a mystical doe, the predatory gangs of weasels surrounding the heroes, the sharp missile fired and hitting Tom's heart, and many other action sequences feel more real and menacing than the action with which our kids are familiar. And, finally, some muddled plotting and bizarre plot twists, including a final reveal that comes from way out in left field, make it a questionable choice even for older kids.
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.