A classic children’s book gets a beautiful novel – The Hollywood Reporter

Ruth Styles Jeanette’s 1948 children’s fiction novel in Newbery Honor, dad’s dragon, you get the Cartoon Saloon treatment in Nora Tommy’s hand-crafted feature. Revived by a stellar voice headed by Jacob Tremblay and Gaten Matarazzo as a 10-year-old boy named Elmer and Boris, a dragon with whom he discovers the rewards of friendship and courage, respectively, the film takes its visual inspiration straight from the original illustrations of the author’s stepmother, Ruth Chrisman Janet . It lacks the cultural specificity of the best Irish boutique animation works, such as Wolfwalkers And the sea ​​songBut its ancient two-dimensional beauty and vivid narrative should please young viewers.

World premiering at the London Film Festival before its arc on Netflix on November 11, this is the second film based on Gannett’s beloved book, after the 1997 Japanese version of Masami Hata. It marks a transition into Twomey’s most popular children’s adventure zone after 2017 the familyAbout an 11-year-old Afghan girl who has come of age under Taliban rule. But there is a thematic overlap in the focus on pre-teen heroes who find escape from life’s hardships but also danger in fairy tales, while seeking to take responsibility for their family’s hardships.

dad’s dragon

bottom line

A film of pleasant but impartial pleasures.

place: BFI London Film Festival (Family)
release day: Friday 11 November
spit: Jacob Tremblay, Gaten Matarazzo, Golshifteh Farahani, Diane West, Rita Moreno, Chris O’Dowd, Judy Greer, Alan Cumming, Yara Shahidi, Jackie Earl Haley, Mary Kay Place, Leighton Meester, Spence Moore II, Whoopi Goldberg, Ian McShane
Director: Nora Tommy
Script book: Meg Levov. A story by LeFauve and John Morgan, inspired by the children’s book by Ruth Stiles Gannett

PG rating, 1 hour 42 minutes

Screenplay by Meg Levov (inside outsideInspired by Janet Elmer and the Dragon The trilogy rather than a completely faithful translation, though it sticks to the archetype in that the story is told by an unseen narrator (Mary Kay Bliss) who recalls events from her father’s life decades earlier.

It begins during a happy time, as Elmer helps his mother Della (Golshifteh Farhani) with a crowded grocery store in her small town; His skill at finding things makes him invaluable in fulfilling customer orders quickly. But those boom times are short-lived, and when recession hits, they lose stock due to foreclosure.

His mother tries to reassure Elmer that everything will be OK as they head off for a fresh start in town, and collects the few remaining items on the shelves in his backpack–scissors, a strawberry lollipop, a chewing piece of a box of elastic bands–as stock when he opens a new store. These random bits of inventory will come in handy when he soon finds himself on a perilous adventure in a strange, untamed place he has never seen before.

Tommy and her illustrators inject eloquent notes of gloom as mother and son walk through heavy rain on desolate roads to a bleak destination called Nevergreen City. This transfer evokes the narratives of the Great Depression, reinforced by the emotional chains of composer siblings Jeff and Michael Dana. They rent an attic apartment with bad plumbing from Mrs. McClaren (Rita Moreno), the bad landlord, and Della makes one frustrated call after another about jobs already filled. While reminding Elmer that it’s her job to worry, not his, the boy sees the false optimism behind her promise of a new store.

After an argument when a cat follows him in the alleyway home, Elmer flees away – in one of the film’s most impressive scenes – through the densely populated city in clouds of industrial smoke, shadows and walls seeming to shut off on him until he reaches the docks. Then the cat surprises him by revealing that she can talk (voiced by Whoopi Goldberg).

As compensation for Elmer’s kindness, the cat tells him about a “amazing, amazing, real dragon and fire-breathing bird” in a place called Wild Island and connects him to the carriage on the back of a laughing whale named Soda (Judy Greer). Elmer sees that he can turn the dragon into an attraction to earn money to ease his mother’s burden and finance the new store.

Most of the story is set in the Wild Island, which is drowning in the ocean, a story that adorns Elmer with the instability of his adventure to match his reality in Nevergreen. The island is kept above sea level only by the efforts of the dragon, Boris, who was captured by the silver-back gorilla Saiwa (Ian McShane), the patriarch of the island’s inhabitants of the fauna.

When Elmer uses his scissors to cut the vines that connect Boris to the hole in the heart of the island, the two become fast friends. But Boris turns out not to be the “amazing, amazing, real, living, flying, fire-breathing dragon” the cat described. He’s a kid, much like Elmer, and his injured wingman makes rising clumsy soccer to full “post-dragon” powers more of a challenge than his self-doubt. His fear of fire and large bodies of water also doesn’t help.

While the previous cartoon Salon features were characterized by the folkloric, mythological and ethnographic foundations of their stories, dad’s dragon It will seem more generic to adult viewers. But the children must respond warmly to Elmer and Boris’s journey through the island and face their fears, searching for answers to help the dragon find his fire and prevent the animal house from drowning.

The playful relationship that develops in the dialogue between Tremblay and Matarazzo is important to the appeal of the cute character designs. Elmer has a hint of the saucer-eyed anime boy about him, while Boris looks like a green and yellow striped sock, with red spikes hanging from the back of his long neck. Their touching friendship is strengthened by the symbiosis of a smart, resourceful, and decisive Elmer who admits he doesn’t always know everything, while an insecure Boris learns to trust his instincts. It’s not so much a classic hero’s journey as it is an experience of mutual growth, an exchange that gives extra tenderness through the beautiful Danna Brothers whistle theme.

The powerful voice work and charming character concepts extend to the many animals – friends and foes – they encounter, with echoes of imagery stretching from Miyazaki to Maurice Sendak. Among the wild creatures caring for the rhinoceros mother are Eris (Diane West), the super crocodile Cornelius (Alan Cumming), tiger siblings Sasha and George (Lighton Meester and Spence Moore II), the Tamir tarsier (Jackie Earl Haley) and the Kentful tarsier (Jackie Earl Haley) Chris O’Dowd), who is angered by Saiwa’s leadership.

The somewhat episodic nature of the book is carried over to the reimagined scenario, which isn’t always as smooth as it might be in its transitions or clean in its action. But the deep fondness for the source comes through, and the hand-drawn aesthetic is charming. The dream sequence connecting Elmer to his home and his mother is especially beautiful, its monochromatic tones contrasting with the vivid colors of the wild island.

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