From the creators of the Academy Award-nominated Ernest and Celestine, director/writer Benjamin Renner and co-director Patrick Imbert have another family-friendly animated film out for home release just in time for Christmas.
Adapted from Renner’s own comics books, Le grand méchant renard and Un bébé à livrer, The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales is a beautifully animated set of three stories. Originally imagined to be three TV specials, the tales are framed as though the animal characters are theatre actors putting on a play. The stories themselves are set in and around a French Farm and although they are aimed at the younger audience there is still humour to be found for any adult viewers. At no point does it become too insufferably cute or too overly complicated; and it more or less held my three-year-old daughter’s attention throughout.
A major part of the success obviously rests with the highly talented voice cast which features Billy Bailey, Adrian Edmondson, Justin Edwards and Celia Imrie to name but a few. Bailey and Edmondson are the comedic double act of Duck and Bunny respectively, to Edwards’ very highly-strung Pig, and Imrie is very formidable as a Mother Hen. The banter between Duck and Bunny, in the two tales in which they have major roles, is delivered perfectly even when heard as an aside and they really make for entertaining viewing. Given the double act’s buffoonery, you can’t help but wonder what it would have been like if the late, great Rik Mayall had been cast opposite Edmondson? It probably would have become a lot less child-friendly.
The first of the three tales is titled Baby Delivery, in which a lazy stalk pretends to have injured itself in a big to get out of delivering the baby girl he’s been carrying. Pig decides to step up, but only after preventing Duck and Bunny from constructing a catapult to launch the girl to the town where her parents live. What follows is a comedy of errors as the incapable trio attempt to get the precious Pauline home safe without her being eaten by a wolf, killed in a plane crash or delivered to China instead. There’s no deeper hidden meaning in this tale, or indeed any of the others, but instead it’s an amusing slapstick romp that had both myself and my daughter laughing throughout.
The second tale is the longest of the three, The Big Bad Fox, and features a Fox (Giles New) who is unable to nab any chickens from the farm because the second he gets too close, Imrie’s intimidating Hen sees him off in a violent fashion. After following the advice of the Wolf (Matthew Goode), and indirectly assisted by the incompetent farmyard dog (Phil Jupitus), Fox manages to steal three chicken eggs. The plan is simple: Look after the baby chicks that hatch until they are bigger, at which point Fox and Wolf can eat them. Obviously, this being a children’s story, things go awry when the chicks imprint on the Fox and believe him to be their mother. Fox then becomes too enamoured with his children that the story leads to an inevitable showdown with the Wolf but then also with the Hen. Due to this story having a longer running time, my daughter’s attention did start to waver at a couple of points but she still gave it two thumbs up when I asked her what she thought of it.
READ MORE: Our review of The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales from last year’s London Film Festival
Lastly, the animals performed the tale my daughter was most interested in, it being the run-up to the festive season, We Must Save Christmas. Building on the chaos and nonsense experienced in the first two tales this takes it to grander heights when Duck and Bunny destroy a plastic Father Christmas but are convinced they’ve killed the real one. Much like Baby Delivery, Pig gets caught up in their haphazard adventures when they decide they have to step in and deliver gifts to the children of the world in Santa’s place. Again it’s very wholesome viewing and had us both laughing along with the crazy situations the trio get involved in.
The Big Bad Fox was a lovely way to pass the time with my daughter, the running time is just under an hour and a half, and the beautiful 2D animation made me think of a number of books she owns that we read at bedtime. These aren’t morality tales disguised as children’s stories, but simply fun, family entertainment. Very much for the little ones in your family but there’s still plenty of laughs for older children and the adults who have to watch as well.
The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales release on DVD and Digital Download from today, 26 November 2018. Check out the trailer below.