×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Kirikou and the Men and Women’

A broad-minded but pretty vanilla third film in the French toon series from Gallic helmer Michel Ocelot

The titular African boy saves the day five times over in “Kirikou and the Men and Women,” the broad-minded but pretty vanilla third film in the French toon series from Gallic helmer Michel Ocelot. Like the second installment, “Kirikou and the Wild Beasts,” this old-school-looking animated pic consists of several unconnected vignettes set during the same period as “Kirikou and the Sorceress,” the feature that launched the franchise. Though not as big a B.O. smash as its predecessors, “Men” did solid theatrical biz in Francophone territories and will be confined to fests and home-viewing formats elsewhere.

Originally envisioned as a series of standalone shorts for TV, the film brings together five unrelated 15-minute tales that are told to the audience by Kirikou’s grandfather (voiced by Emmanuel de Kset Gomes), who briefly appears before each episode. Ocelot worked with different femme authors for the stories, including, for the first three tales, Benedicte Galup, who co-directed “Wild Beasts.”

Kirikou (Romann Berrux) is, of course, the agile, impertinent and entirely naked African boy whose childlike naivete usually works in his favor. The tiny Kirikou looks like a newborn, though he talks and walks and specializes in finding solutions to the myriad problems his rural community faces. (The village of simple mud-and-straw huts seems tucked away in a mythical version of Western Africa; most of the voice actors have Senegalese backgrounds and accents.)

In the first story, a strong-willed woman (Sabine Bekika Pakora) comes to stay with Kirikou and his loving mother (Jessica Tougloh) after the roof of her hut is burned by the robot-like servants (voiced by Jean Landruphe Diby) of the evil sorceress Karaba (Awa Sene Sarr, encoring). This segment most closely ties in with “Sorceress” and serves as a welcome reminder, or explanation for the uninitiated, of Kirikou’s world.

The next yarn, about a cranky old man who has to hide from a jackal in a tree, most closely parallels “Wild Beasts” in that an animal plays an important role, although throughout, as the film’s title indicates, the film is mainly concerned with Kirikou’s interactions with other humans. This second mini-narrative strikes a neat balance between a grouchy codger and the bouncy young kid who might help him out.

The third tale, and easily the best of the five, is a parable about racial tolerance that involves the arrival of a “blue monster,” which turns out to be a lost Touareg boy dressed in blue robes, named Anigouran (after a mythological Touareg figure). The children of the village are worried that the strange creature, with his light complexion, might be dangerous, but Kirikou manages to engage with him and figure out his story, even though neither speaks the other’s language.

Co-written by New Jersey-born, France-based youth author Susie Morgenstern, the fourth yarn fittingly involves a visiting femme griot, or storyteller, who enchants the village with a version of the tale of Soundiata Keita, the founder of the Mali empire. This provokes the jealousy of Karaba, who can’t hear the griot.

The film’s weakest element is the closing seg, co-penned by Cendrine Maubourguet, in which Kirikou’s musical capabilities save the day. Though song and dance are an integral part of the boy’s universe, the outcome of this tale feels largely unmotivated and the narrative too thin. Generally, though, Ocelot, who spent time in Guinea as a child, infuses these tales with a disarming narrative simplicity, while also gently instilling a sense of morality.

After employing traditional hand-drawn animation for the first two “Kirikou” films, Ocelot used CGI for his features “Azur & Asmar” and “Tales of the Night,” which was rendered in 3D. The third “Kirikou” was also released in the stereoscopic format theatrically, though thankfully, the helmer here uses what he calls “flat 3D,” approximating the use of the multiplane camera, which creates the illusion of depth mainly via overlapping surfaces. Though some of the backgrounds were clearly created virtually rather than on paper, the pic feels of a piece with its predecessors.

Sound, score and songs (Senegalese superstar Youssou N’Dour again provided input on the tunes) are all aces and further help anchor the film specifically in the “Kirikou” universe.

Kirikou and the Men and Women
Kirikou et les hommes et les femmes
(Animated –France)

Reviewed at L’Archipele, Paris, March 27, 2013. (In Istanbul, New York Children’s film festivals; 2012 Rome Film Festival.) Running time: 85 MIN.

A Studiocanal release of a Les Armateurs, Mac Guff Ligne, France 3 Cinema, Studio O production, in association with Canal Plus, Cine Plus, France Televisions. (International sales: Studiocanal, Paris.) Produced by Didier Brunner, Jacques Bled.

Directed by Michel Ocelot. Screenplay, Ocelot, Benedicte Galup, Susie Morgenstern, Cendrine Maubourguet. Camera (color, HD, 3D); editor, Patrick Ducruet; music, Thibault Agyeman; production designers, Christel Boyer, Thierry Million; sound (Dolby Digital), Philippe Brun; animation supervisor, Ocelot; line producer, Ivan Rouveure; casting, Gigi Akoka.

Voices: Romann Berrux, Awa Sene Sarr, Jessica Tougloh, Emmanuel de Kset Gomes, Umban U Kset, Jean Landruphe Diby, Sabine Bekika Pakora, Evelyne Pelerin-Ngo Maa.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'Kirikou and the Men and Women'

More Film

  • Renee Zellweger Rufus Wainwright Sam Smith

    Renée Zellweger: Judy Garland Was 'My Childhood Hero'

    Awards buzz is building around Renée Zellweger for her performance as Judy Garland, emerging as a frontrunner in the Oscar race for best actress. But for her, the real prize was paying tribute to Garland, of whom she’s been a lifelong fan. “Nobody was prettier, nobody sang prettier…the adventures she had, [she was] my childhood [...]

  • Topic Studios

    Layoffs Hit Topic Studios as TV Division Relocates to West Coast (EXCLUSIVE)

    A small round of layoffs has hit Topic Studios this week in the television division, insiders familiar with the company told Variety. One of the insiders said three executives at the New York-based producer and distributor are out: senior vice president of scripted programming and Viacom alum Lisa Leingang, vice president of development Mona Panchal [...]

  • 'Downton Abbey' Music Gets 'Bigger, Better,

    As 'Downton Abbey' Hits the Silver Screen, the Music, Too, Gets 'Bigger, Better, Grander'

    When “Downton Abbey” fans hear that familiar strings-and-piano theme, a Pavlovian response ensues: Get to the television immediately, because you don’t want to miss a minute of the addictive Crawley family melodrama to follow. This week, with the “Downton Abbey” movie reaching theaters on Friday, fans can’t wait for their fix of Lady Mary and [...]

  • 45 Seconds of Laughter

    Film Review: '45 Seconds of Laughter'

    “Everyone is worth more than their worst act,” said Roman Catholic sister and anti-death penalty advocate Helen Prejean, and it’s with these words that “45 Seconds of Laughter” closes. It’s an apt sentiment on which to leave Tim Robbins’ sincerely felt documentary study of the therapeutic acting workshops run by his own theater company in [...]

  • Julie Andrews

    Julie Andrews Selected for AFI's Life Achievement Award

    The American Film Institute Board of Trustees has selected Julie Andrews as the recipient of the 48th AFI Life Achievement Award. The award will be presented to Andrews on April 25 in Los Angeles. The ceremony will be telecast on TNT. “Julie Andrews is practically perfect in every way,” said Kathleen Kennedy, chair of the [...]

  • 4127_D001_00007_RC Phyllis Logan stars as Mrs.

    'Downton Abbey' to Dominate Box Office Weekend With $30 Million

    The feature film version of “Downton Abbey” is heading for an impressive $30 million opening weekend at 3,079 sites for an easy victory at the North American box office, early estimates showed Friday. The launch of Brad Pitt’s space drama “Ad Astra” will land in second with about $20 million, while Sylvester Stallone’s action-thriller “Rambo: [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content