Directed by: Nora Twomey | 99 minutes | entertainment, adventure | Original Voice Cast: Jacob Tremblay, Ian McShane, Judy Greer, Rita Moreno, Leighton Meester, Adam Brody, Golshifteh Farahani, Yara Shahidi, Alan Cumming, Chris O’Dowd, Whoopi Goldberg, Jackie Earle Haley, Dianne Wiest, Gaten Matarazzo, Mary Kay Place, Charlyne Yi, Spence Moore II, Eric Tiede, Sofie Asplin, Maggie Lincoln, Jack SA Smith
The country resembles the United States. The period resembles that of the Depression years around 1930. The neighborhood resembles the Dust Bowl, poor and parched. It was in this environment and at this time that the young Elmer’s single mother noticed that her village store was no longer profitable. So she gets in the car and goes with her son to a city that looks like New York. This is where the poverty really sets in.
The animated movie ‘My Father’s Dragon’ opens in dark colors with these depressing events. But then Elmer discovers a talking cat and this cat tells Elmer how he and his mother can make money. For this, Elmer must go to Wild Island, which is populated by wild and slightly less wild animals. There also lives a dragon, whose job it is to keep the island afloat. With a dragon like that, Elmer would do just fine as a street performer. That’s the idea.
“My Father’s Dragon” is a production of Netflix and Cartoon Saloon, among others. We know the latter from catchy, stylistic animated movies like “The Secret of Kells” and “Song of the Sea.” Unfortunately, this Irish-American co-production turns out a little less well. The story is, according to American custom, full of sweet feelings, moral lessons, and the kind of humor that’s especially popular with younger kids (farts and all).
Even more boring than that are the characters. All the cliched characters from American mainstream animation are featured. The sidekick with ADHD (dragon), the wise animal (monkey), the evil animal (also monkey), the clumsy animal with the small heart (rhinoceros) and the young animals teeming with kibble pilots (monkeys and crocodiles ).
On the other hand, there are the beautiful animations, which evoke memories of Cartoon Saloon’s past work. The bright colors (except at the beginning), the characteristic flattened animation, almost more 2D than 2D. The too human eyes of the mother and the menacing contours of the big city. On top of that we have a talking cat and a spherical whale, both of which appear to have run away from Studio Ghibli.
It all adds up to a film whose separate elements – story, dialogue, and animation – never form a whole. For the youngest there is still something to laugh about, the adults have to be satisfied with the beautiful animations. Not a level of Cartoon Saloon, but also not high end as mainstream animation. A bit unfortunate.
VOD release: November 11, 2022 (Netflix)
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