DIR: Toby Genkel, Sean McCormack • WRI: Richie Conroy, Toby Genkel, Mark Hodkinson, Marteinn Thorisson • PRO: Emely Christians, Jan Goossen, Moe Honan • ED: Reza Memari DES: Heiko Hentschel • MUS: Stephen McKeon • CAST: Carla Becker, Ava Connolly, Lotta Doll
Two by Two is an Irish animation that recasts the story of Noah’s Ark as an absurdist family comedy told through the eyes of some of the animals caught in the situation. And it’s a fine film, with good writing, funny visual gags, and a surprisingly heart-warming story about trying to find your place in a large scary world. And it’s all complimented by beautiful animation and a unique look, as well as some great voice acting.
So then, the story: Dave and his son Finny are a pair of Nestrians who have spent their whole lives wandering around from place to place, and while Dave has gotten used to his lot in life, Vinny’s lack of friends has left him emotionally stunted and desperately lonely. Meanwhile, our two female leads, (Grimps) mother-daughter duo Hazel and Leah, are also both loners, although while Dave and Vinny are constantly upbeat, happy and friendly, especially Vinny, Hazel and Leah are both aloof and stuck-up, projecting hardened exteriors and acting like a pair of pre-flood Saiyans. The flood from the book of Genesis is about to hit the planet, and some selected animals will be brought onto the ark to survive, while some (including the Nestrians) are to be left on dry land to die. To avoid death, Vinny and Dave sneak onto the ark disguised as Grimps, more specifically the other half of Hazel and Leah’s family, much to Hazel’s dissent and anger.
Due to a few contrived accidents, Leah and Vinny end up having to work together to survive in a harsh wilderness, while Dave and Hazel end up imprisoned together and have to work together in order to find their children. From there, the plot borrows heavily from Rio (2011), i.e. an idiotic, borderline completely ineffectual male lead and a bad-ass female character are forced to work together in order to get through a situation. There’s bickering, threats, and bitching, but eventually the male and female succeed against the odds by using teamwork and their complementary skill-sets, become friends and we get a standard enough Hollywood happy ending. Yes, it’s been done before; yes, you can guess almost exactly how the over-arching plot and character arcs are going to play out, but I’m going to give it the same defence I use for Avengers Assemble (2012) and last year’s smash hit Guardians of the Galaxy – its strength isn’t in a bold, original storyline, but is instead its excellent presentation of a familiar one.
Now, while the formula itself isn’t the most original, the side-characters do manage to be, especially an idiotic, pompous king who acts like a cross between The Lion King’s Mufasa and Prince George as presented in Blackadder the Third.
The film also pushes a theme of rejecting society’s labels and other people’s paths for you for the sake of forging your own. For example, Dave and Vinny are rejected from the ark, and society has decided they should die, so they simply sneak on-board instead, and certain other characters make similar choices. Granted, this is an animation aimed at children, so don’t expect too heavy anti-conformist messages in here, but at the same time it does weave them in subtly.
The animation is also extremely well done, the film has a unique look to it, and the character designs all look good, as do the various locations.
However, good as this film is, it does have one big, if not fatal, flaw – a compelling villain. It has a few villains, a few carnivorous birds that want to eat Vinny and Leah, the aforementioned king, but there’s no truly great villain, no Scar or Ursula to match the heroes. Granted, good villains need a lot of screen-time in order for fleshing out, for good motivation, to become fearsome, and the writers wanted to give the main characters as much time as possible in order to develop the narrative it is nevertheless a weakness.
Ultimately, Two by Two is not going to be remembered as a classic for the current generation of young children in the same way Frozen, Train your Dragon 2 or The Lego Movie will be. But it is still a solid family film, and definitely worth your time and money if you’re a parent and want to do something fun with your children.
G (See IFCO for details)
Two by Two is released 1st May 2015