×

Free Jimmy

Norwegian-Brit co-prod plays like some unholy cross between "Dumbo," "Fritz the Cat" and "Requiem for a Dream." Plot pivots round Jimmy, a heroin-addicted circus elephant, on the run and pursued by all sorts across a Nordic landscape. Computer-animated pic could be too dark, dirty and insufficiently funny to achieve more than cult success.

With:
Voices: Woody Harrelson, Simon Pegg, Phil Daniels, Jay Simpson, Kyle MacLachlan, Emilia Fox, Lisa Maxwell, Samantha Morton, Kris Marshall, Jim Broadbend, James Cosmo, David Tennant, Douglas Henshall, Reece Shearsmith, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton. (English dialogue).

Norwegian-Brit co-prod “Free Jimmy” plays like some unholy cross between “Dumbo,” “Fritz the Cat” and “Requiem for a Dream.” Plot pivots round Jimmy, a heroin-addicted circus elephant, on the run and pursued by all sorts across a Nordic landscape. Computer-animated pic has so far snuffled an intoxicating $1.3 million up its trunk in Norway with a Norsk-language version, but despite use of name voice cast for English-lingo incarnation shown in Cannes, pic could be too dark, dirty and insufficiently funny to achieve more than cult success offshore.

Dialogue never mentions where story takes place, but visual clues leave no doubt this is somewhere in Scandinavia, even if characters speak with a mishmash of British and American accents. Although translation of script by helmer Christopher Nielsen in English by comic thesp Simon Pegg (“Shaun of the Dead”) is fluent and frequently piquant, pic’s satirical edge feels blunted by blurry sense of which society is being skewered.

In unspecified city, a trio of Cockney-voiced druggies (voiced by Pegg himself, Phil Daniels and Jay Simpson) are asked by their American friend Roy Arnie (Woody Harrelson) to come to the sticks to help him take care of Jimmy, an Indian elephant who’s the star attraction at a decrepit circus run by Russian ringmaster Stromowski (Jim Broadbent).

Roy Arnie really needs the guys’ assistance not so much to feed Jimmy his daily doses of heroin and speed, but to help him kill the creature in order to extract a huge stash of smack surgically sewn under his hide. Three menacing-looking characters (Reece Shearsmith, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton, all from cult Brit TV series “The League of Gentlemen”) from the much-feared Lapp Mafia are also after Jimmy for the same reason. Meanwhile, a gang of militant animal-rights activists led by Marius (Kyle MacLachlan) want to set Jimmy free. A string of mishaps result in Jimmy roaming wild on the moors. Cut off from his dope supply, Jimmy starts to go cold turkey, but is helped through his ordeal by a kindly, fleet-footed moose.

Plot doesn’t stint on the dark stuff given a sizeable swathe of the character ensemble end up dying bloody deaths. A graphic sex scene early on and the swear-word-laden dialogue establish from the off this is most certainly not kids’ stuff, but even adult auds will still flinch at the cruelty meted out here to man and beast alike. Lack of sympathetic characters, apart from the hapless eponymous pachyderm and his alcine friend, make whole bale of hay a bit of downer.

Script also is a bit light on the kind of outright funny one-liners needed to generate good word-of-mouth among auds most likely to buy into such product. Sensibility is closest to adult-oriented comic books, which is where writer-helmer Christopher Nielsen’s career started before he moved in shorts and TV production. With its simplified backgrounds and often clumsy character movement, pic’s production values suggest budget considerably lower than the average Pixar or DreamWorks pixelpic. Deliberately grotesque character design is somewhat ungainly, though Jimmy himself is a finely rendered beast, empathy-generating and genuinely realistically elephantine at once. The Lapp gangsters, with their ruthlessly cut cheekbones and traditional jester hats, likewise rep standout caricature work.

Popular on Variety

Free Jimmy

Norway - U.K.

Production: A Columbia TriStar release (in Norway) of a Norwegian Film Institute presentation of a Storm Studio (Norway)/Sarah Radclyffe Prods. (U.K.) production. (International sales: Norwegian Film Institute, Oslo.) Produced by Lars Andreas Hellebust. Executive producer, Bill Godfrey. Directed by Christopher Nielsen. Screenplay, Nielsen, Simon Pegg.

Crew: (Color); editor, Alistair Reid; music, Simon Boswell; production designer, Mikael Holmberg; character designer, Ivar Rodningen; sound (Dolby Digital), Jeremy Price; co-producer, Sarah Radclyffe. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Critics Week), May 25, 2006. Running time: 86 MIN.

With: Voices: Woody Harrelson, Simon Pegg, Phil Daniels, Jay Simpson, Kyle MacLachlan, Emilia Fox, Lisa Maxwell, Samantha Morton, Kris Marshall, Jim Broadbend, James Cosmo, David Tennant, Douglas Henshall, Reece Shearsmith, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton. (English dialogue).

More Film

  • Amanda Awards

    ‘Out Stealing Horses’ Tops Norway’s 2019 Amanda Awards

    HAUGESUND, Norway —  Hans Petter Moland’s sweeping literary adaptation “Out Stealing Horses” put in a dominant showing at Norway’s Amanda Awards on Saturday night, placing first with a collected five awards, including best Norwegian film. Celebrating its 35th edition this year, the Norwegian industry’s top film prize helped kick off the Haugesund Film Festival and [...]

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Richard Williams, 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' Animator, Dies at 86

    Renowned animator Richard Williams, best known for his work on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” died Friday at his home in Bristol, England, Variety has confirmed. He was 86. Williams was a distinguished animator, director, producer, author and teacher whose work has garnered three Oscars and three BAFTA Awards. In addition to his groundbreaking work as [...]

  • Instinct

    Locarno Film Review: 'Instinct'

    Now that “Game of Thrones” has finally reached its conclusion, releasing its gifted international ensemble into the casting wilds, will Hollywood remember just what it has in Carice van Houten? It’s not that the statuesque Dutch thesp hasn’t been consistently employed since her startling 2006 breakout in Paul Verhoeven’s “Black Book,” or even that she’s [...]

  • Good Boys Movie

    Box Office: 'Good Boys' Eyes Best Original Comedy Opening of 2019

    Universal’s “Good Boys” is surpassing expectations as it heads toward an estimated $20.8 million opening weekend at the domestic box office following $8.3 million in Friday ticket sales. That’s well above earlier estimates which placed the film in the $12 million to $15 million range, marking the first R-rated comedy to open at No. 1 [...]

  • Pedro Costa’s 'Vitalina Varela' Wins at

    Pedro Costa’s 'Vitalina Varela' Triumphs at Locarno Film Festival

    The 72nd Locarno Film Festival drew to a close Saturday with Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa’s dark and detached film “Vitalina Varela” coming away with several awards together with superlatives from segments of the hardcore cinephile crowd, including jury president Catherine Breillat. In announcing the Golden Leopard prize for the film, as well as best actress [...]

  • Vitalina Varela

    Locarno Film Review: 'Vitalina Varela'

    Frequently beautiful compositions and the theatrical use of a fierce kind of artifice have long been the hallmarks of Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa, regarded by a small but influential group of aesthetes as one of the great filmmakers of our era. For those in tune with his vision, the director’s films offer an exciting lesson [...]

  • Notre dame

    Locarno Film Review: 'Notre dame'

    Not to be too cynical about it, but might the recent horrific fire in Paris’ cathedral attract audiences to a film in which the gothic gem plays a major role? It’s likely a wiser marketing strategy than promoting the unrelenting silliness of Valerie Donzelli’s oh-so-kooky comedy “Notre dame,” the writer-director-star’s return to contemporary Paris following [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content