Pil’s Adventures – magical medieval madcap mayhem

8/10

Summary

Pil’s Adventures REVIEW

GARY STEEL and his brood enjoy watching a film about a girl and her ravenous weasels set in medieval France.

Screening in NZ from Thursday 2 June

There was a time when I dreaded being captive in a cinema with a computer-animated travesty on the screen and a dark room full of munching, chewing, crunching, noisy wee monsters. My biggest issue was the actual films. Too often, they were utter garbage, and about as forgettable as the giant box of popcorn or tub of Coke consumed during the movie. The other problem was the computer animation itself, which lacked the nuances of old-fashioned cartoons.

 

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That time is thankfully long gone. I don’t know exactly when I gave up my lonely protestations about computer-animated films (was it before or after I had kids of my own?) but my issues with the format slowly ebbed away. Still, it’s fair to say that a good percentage of the mainstream animated films to hit our multiplexes are still mired in cliché. While the standard of animation is often thrillingly great, far too many children’s films are betrayed by stereotypical characterisations, pacing so frenetic that it’s exhausting, and so much pointless blabber that you wonder if the faceless dweebs who wrote the dialogue are suffering from jet-propelled poo-poos.

Which brings us to Pil’s Adventures, a film with a few comedic references to doggy-do, a bad dog that pees in all the wrong places, and a plot that requires the fetching of some rainbow-coloured unicorn excrement from the cursed forest.

Not that the movie is exceptionally potty-themed or at all potty-mouthed. It’s actually a cleverly well-rounded story that keeps on grabbing you with new visual scenarios and plenty of adventure, mystery and skylarking. And here’s the big one: like all the best children’s films, its makers have figured out that the tiny tots will be accompanied by fully grown people who will also be seeking a level of entertainment.

Unlike some Pixar favourites like the Toy Story franchise, the film doesn’t have sly “for parents only” jokes buried in the dialogue, but the level of creativity and craft alone ensures that the big people are also entertained.

Pil is a clever, resilient if lonely orphan (or sprite) who survives on her wits and looks after a small troupe of endearing weasels. The setting is a medieval village where the prince is about the come of age and ascend to the throne. Much of the story arises from the bungled attempt by the evil Lord Tristan to poison the prince and claim the kingdom. As it happens, the magic potion instead transforms the prince into a half-chicken/half-cat (a “chickat”) and Pil and her entourage set off to the cursed forest to get the magic poo and find a witch to transform the unfortunate creature back into the prince.

I know, it all sounds rather silly, but the “chickat” (with its half-clucks/half-meows) is rather amusing, and between the rather slapstick humour and the various twists and turns of the story, there’s really never a dull moment.

Clearly, Pil’s Adventures doesn’t belong in the top strata of computer-animated movies. If it did, it’d be playing during the school holidays, right? Nevertheless, the characters are all memorable, and the animation itself is decent enough: while the individual characters aren’t rendered with the kind of detail we might expect from the major animation studios, the backgrounds and “camera action” (which often move with a style that will be familiar to gamers) are always impressive.

The film’s aesthetic is slightly different to that of typical Hollywood movies, and that’s undoubtedly due to its Gallic origins. While the dialogue is in English, the film itself is French, which explains some of its happy deviations from the generic.

Perhaps the best thing I can say about Pil’s Adventures is that the two kids (a 3-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl) watched it avidly, and were still talking about it the next day, which is rare. It helps that the movie has a bit of everything – comedy, adventure, action, fantasy – and that children of varying ages can all get something out of it. Some sensitive children may find that a few scenes are too scary, but most will cope.

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