Filmmakers can find inspiration in the most unlikely of places. Even something like an animal-shaped cookie isn’t just a sweet treat for them; it’s the potential subject of a movie! That explains why we now have Animal Crackers, an animated fantasy adventure centred on a box of magical biscuits.

The movie tells the story of a family that inherits a “run-down, burnt-up, worn-out” circus which they must then save from being taken over by an evil uncle.

We begin in the 1960s, as the film explains how circus-owner brothers Horatio (voiced by Ian McKellen) and Bob (James Arnold Taylor) have a falling out because they both like the beautiful Talia (Tara Strong). Bob ends up marrying Talia, while an angry Horatio leaves the circus. With Bob in charge, the show becomes known for its amazing animal acts.

Years later, Bob’s nephew Owen (John Krasinski) also finds love at the same circus, but he has to give up his dream of running the show in order to please his lovely wife Zoe’s (Emily Blunt) demanding father (Wallace Shaw).

Meanwhile, Horatio keeps trying to discover the secret behind Bob’s act, but one day, his efforts end in tragedy.

Owen then finds out that his uncle Bob has left him the circus as well as a magical box of animal crackers that is behind the show’s spectacle. If someone eats an animal-shaped biscuit from the box, they turn into that animal!

Will Bob (who works at his father-in-law’s dog biscuit factory), Zoe (who starts rebuilding the circus), and their carnival friends manage to save the show and defeat Horatio?

Maybe. Maybe not. But they will certainly learn a lesson or two along the way. The magical world of Animal Crackers is filled with joy and fun. There are some amusing musical numbers, humorous gags, and moments of excitement.

But the adventure is quite uneven. It’s all a bit confusing at the start, very predictable by the middle, and altogether zany by the end. The characters are a little basic, although the delightful voice cast does a good job bringing them to life.

Ultimately, the film is somewhat like its namesake biscuits: sweet, a little bland, not particularly nutritious, but visually cute and fun to experience once in a while.

Published in Dawn, Young World, August 22nd, 2020

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