Wolfy: The Incredible Secret

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Wolfy: The Incredible Secret Movie Poster Image
Dark, animated anti-fascist allegory with lots of violence.
  • NR
  • 2015
  • 80 minutes

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Kids say

age 17+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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

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.   

Sex

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. 

Language

Profanity: "bastard," "ass." Name-calling: "stupid," "idiot" "lazy," "jerk," "hussy," "dummy," "spineless hick," "schmuck." Characters spend time cleaning up bear poop.

Consumerism
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.

What 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.

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What's the story?

Wolfy (Rafael Marin), a soft-spoken, caring young wolf, lives happily in a peaceful forest, inseparable from his best friend, rabbit Tom (Christian Vandepas), and surrounded by other delightful woodland creatures in WOLFY: THE INCREDIBLE SECRET. When a mysterious woman insists on telling Wolfy's fortune, the trusting little guy learns that his long-lost mother is alive and in desperate need of his help in Wolfenberg, a mountain town dominated by a powerful faction of wolves. Against Tom's better judgment, Wolfy decides to find and rescue the woman he never knew. Wolfenberg proves to be much more dangerous than Wolfy could ever have imagined. An evil ruler with his packs of savage wolves, a staggering number of long-fanged carnivores celebrating the destruction of the vulnerable "no-fang" population, and a ragtag resistance army preparing to battle for the soul of the city all present Wolfy and Tom with the biggest challenge of their lives. Is Wolfy's mother really alive? Can the beautiful vixen Scarlett be trusted? Will "no-fang" Tom escape from a series of devastating attacks? And finally, what is the "incredible secret" that reveals the truth about Wolfy's identity? 

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence and action in this French film. How does it differ from most cartoons made for U.S. audiences? Do the villains seem more or less realistic? 

  • Find out the meaning of the word "anthropomorphic." Why do you think artists, writers, filmmakers, and other creative people use human-like animals/creatures to tell a story or to present an idea? Write a short anthropomorphic story using an animal to express one of your own points of view. 

  • An allegory is often a story that stands in for a political or historical situation. Which events and/or actual people from the 20th century does this movie bring to mind? Give some examples.

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