The vast majority of stories targeted at children come pre-packaged with an ulterior motive besides entertainment. Sometimes, they stealthily try to impart knowledge on topics that would otherwise be difficult to digest, like my previous animated outing at the BFI Festival, “The Breadwinner”. Most commonly, they attempt to teach their young viewers a touching lesson about what’s wrong and what’s right, what traits of their own personalities they should embrace and what they should change about themselves in order to fit into civilised society (this is what every Pixar movie aims to do, essentially).
This approach is mostly based on good intentions, of course, and it often manages to produce excellent films, too. But there’s nothing wrong with a story that’s simply designed to make you laugh, and that’s exactly the mission of “The Big Bad Fox and other Tales”, one that it manages to fulfil quite successfully, in my humble opinion: it’s been a long time since I’ve had such a good time at the cinema.
“The Big Bad Fox…” is composed of three stand-alone stories set around the same countryside farm, with a cast of colourful, hilarious characters that includes, amongst others, the (not too) big, (not too) bad fox from the title, an anxious pig and a Laurel-and-Hardy type pair of rabbit and duck pals. The tales are brief and fast, serving one joke after the other, and their humour is accessible to people of all ages. It’s an ideal film for relaxing and having a good time.
Sure, if one wants to find hidden meanings, the story of the chicks who come to believe that the fox is their mother, and that they, themselves, are fox kits, could raise some interesting questions about identity and nature vs. nurture. But why would you want to do that? Just sit back and enjoy the film.
Visually, “The Big Bad Fox…” is lovely, resembling watercolour illustrations. Its aesthetic is vaguely similar to “Ernest and Celestine” (which shares a director with this film), although the character design is more cartoon-like. The inherent cuteness or humour of the characters’ look also goes a long way towards enhancing the laughs.
After the screening, I was able to witness possibly the best ever Q&A session with a director, with children from the audience asking questions such as: “Why didn’t you film with real foxes?”, “Why isn’t the dog the main character?” and “Why are the duck’s parents not in the movie?” I strongly suggest that film festivals everywhere should hire a panel of children critics for questioning even filmmakers who make self-indulgent films for grown-ups; that way we might be eventually spared a lot of the boring stuff that adult critics usually gush over.