Kirikou, the razor-sharp little boy who emerged from his mother's womb able to speak, and who moves as fast as the Road Runner, is the problem-solving lynchpin to four new stories in kidtoon "Kirikou and the Wild Beasts." Pic should amply satisfy its built-in audience seven years after "Kirikou and the Sorceress" became a phenom in Gaul and beyond.

He’s tiny, he’s black, he’s naked and he’s back! Kirikou, the razor-sharp little boy who emerged from his mother’s womb able to speak, and who moves as fast as the Road Runner, is the problem-solving lynchpin to four new stories in kidtoon “Kirikou and the Wild Beasts.” Using ingenuity, deductive reasoning and bravery, Kirikou outsmarts the evil witch who threatens his resilient African village. Simple but engaging, full of peril and resolution, pic should amply satisfy its built-in audience seven years after “Kirikou and the Sorceress” became a phenom in Gaul and beyond.

Sold to more than 50 countries prior to Cannes 2005, the pic is directed at kids, but never panders to them. A frightening witch, a scary hyena and the possibility of starvation and death are thoughtfully but matter-of-factly incorporated. Overriding message is to be generous to one’s fellows and to always endeavor to think things through.

A wise old (animated) man announces to the audience that the first Kirikou movie was too short. Kirikou, he says, had other adventures that were vital to his village. Each of the four tales is self-contained, with the wise old man providing an intro to each.

In the first episode, Kirikou, believed drowned, awakens in his mother’s arms to the joy of his fellow villagers. Since the water source he found makes irrigation possible, the community labors to create a vegetable garden. But one morning they find their hard work destroyed. Is it the witch’s doing?

In the second tale, everyone now knows what happened to the veggies — but that leaves the problem of what to eat. Kirikou discovers natural clay from which the villagers make pottery to sell in town to earn food money. But the wares are too heavy to carry.

In the third seg, Kirikou travels atop a giraffe as the pic’s most detailed animation shows dense jungle and parched desert, dramatic outcroppings and azure streams. Kirikou in this seg has to outsmart creepy robots sent by the witch.

In final tale, all the women fall ill, and the only known antidote grows outside the dread sorceress’ fortified abode.

Animation, like dialogue and narration, is simple and direct. Messages of the value of teamwork, pride in shared labor, self-reliance and resourcefulness are nicely embedded into compact, suspenseful adventures.

As in the first “Kirikou,” all the women, except for those who bind infants to their backs with cloth, are drawn nude above the waist; Kirikou’s mini male appendage is also visible, although grown men wear robes or loin cloths. Advance snippet of the pic had youngsters ecstatic at Cannes this year; as the screening was co-sponsored by Unesco, it seems unlikely young psyches were harmed by such nudity.

Vet musician Manu Dibango, considered the father of world music, here works on his first film score. Simple, catchy songs emphasize African instruments and pleasing unfussy vocals. Traditional animation, done by 200 people in three countries, including Vietnam (Studio Armada TMT) and Latvia (Studio Jetmedia), is rarely more than basic, but always vividly communicative.

Kirikou and the Wild Beasts

France

Production

A Gebeka Films release of a Didier Bruner presentation of a Les Armateurs, Gebeka Films, France 3 Cinema, Studio O production. (International sales: Celluloid Dreams, Paris.) Produced by Didier Bruner. Co-producers, Marc Bonny, Isabelle Peyrefitte, Michel Ocelot. Directed by Michel Ocelot, Benedicte Galup. Screenplay, Ocelot, Philippe Andrieu, Galup, Marine Locatelli.

Crew

(In color.); editor, Dominique Lefevre; music, Ocelot, Youssou N'Dour, Rokia Traore, Manu Dibango; sound (Dolby), Bruno Seznec; character designer, Ocelot; additional character designers, Olivier Reynal, Jean-Luc Serrano; assistant director, Veronique N'Guyen; voice casting, Sydney Kotto. Reviewed at Club de l'Etoile screening room, Paris, Sept. 22, 2005. Running time: 74 MIN.

With

Voices: Pierre-Ndoffe Sarr, Awa Sene Sarr, Robert Liensol, Marie-Philomene Nga, Emile Abossolo M'Bo, Pascal N'Zonzi, Marthe N'Dome, Emilie Gaydu, Gwenael Sommier, Jean Bediebe.

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