The Oscar Project
I remember reading the book that inspired this film when I was young. Even as young as I was, I recall the silliness I felt at reading the fairy tale stories I had heard hundreds of times turned on their heads and told in a different light.
Despite the time that has passed since the last time I read these rhymes, watching the film brought them clearly back to my memory and I am glad to see that the film stays fairly close to the book in most respects.
He starts with the two young wolves spying Red Riding Hood picking flowers to sell in town. They intend to chase after her, but are stopped by an older wolf, presumably the one from the diner. We then see young Red Riding Hood selling flowers on the street and one of her customers is the princess Snow White. Red joins White at her mother's grave and they become friends. The story follows the familiar refrain of the king taking a new queen, who uses her mirror to ask questions of fairness, only to demand Snow White's heart when the mirror claims she is the fairest.
This we all know, but the next part steers a bit off course. The timing shifts forward a decade when Snow and Red are all grown up. Red now runs her own flower stall and stashes her profits at Porkley's Bank before heading off to visit Snow White. She encounters Snow just as she is kidnapped by the huntsman tasked with obtaining her heart. In his haste, he drops a pistol which Red takes...just in case. Meanwhile, Rolf, one of the young wolves from before, fulfills the story we know by eating Red's grandmother, only to be shot dead by Red when she returns home.
As the straw and sticks pigs erect a billboard for their new real estate project, Rex appears and eats them. He then finds the banker pig, intending to eat him as well, only to have the teller window slammed in his face. While Rex stacks dynamite outside the bank to blow it up, the pig reaches out to Red for help after seeing a news clipping about Red killing Rolf. Red arrives just as Rex lights the fuse, shooting him dead and putting out the fuse. The banker pig takes her into a hidden back room, intending to thank her with a romantic gesture, but Red continues her killing spree with the pig after finding her broken piggy bank.
The story turns back to Snow White and her diminutive friends for a bit when she sneaks into the palace to steal the queens mirror. Once secured, the mirror tells the dwarfs that a horse named Mistletoe will win the next race. Hearing about mistletoe, Snow thinks about Red and the mirror shows Red on a bus on her way to the city. Snow meets her at the bus station, and the two friends join the dwarfs at the racetrack. The dwarfs bet what little they have, with Red contributing a hefty sum she stole from Porkley's Bank. Red gives Snow a fur coat made from Rex's skin and reveals a pigskin traveling case. With the aid of the magic mirror, Red, Snow, and the dwarfs win big at the races and become millionaires.
Back at the restaurant, the wolf has bound and gagged Miss Hunt in a closet and has donned her clothes. We see Snow arrive at the house across the street to meet Red, who lives there with her two children. Despite concerns that Miss Hunt is late, Red's daughter persuades Red to leave the kids alone until Miss Hunt arrives. Red and Snow leave together, and the wolf enters the house in the guise of Miss Hunt.
At first I didn't understand how this film was nominated in the Best Animated Short category. By definition, the category is reserved for films with running times less than 40 minutes. "Revolting Rhymes" seemed to be the exception in that it runs at 56 minutes split between two parts. I scoured the internet to find an answer to this puzzle and finally discovered that only Part 1 was nominated for the award. As such, I decided to focus this analysis only on Part 1.
The first thing to address in any analysis of this film is the visual style. Anyone who has read any Roald Dahl books is familiar with the line drawings by Quentin Blake that accompany his books. In my mind, they are as much a part of the story as the words themselves. The images of characters like the BFG, the Witches, and even the wolf from these Revolting Rhymes are burned into my memory from when I read these books as a child. In that respect, the film does an excellent job of capturing the essence of those original drawing and bringing them to life on the screen.
The images are bring and the animation is strong. There are moments where small facial movements move the story along. Where the images begin to break down for me a bit is in the backgrounds of many scenes. The landscapes are created to look very simple, almost like they are made from cardboard or paper as in a diorama. For me, it takes something away from the polish that the foreground animation has throughout. Especially when contrasted with "Lou" or "Garden Party" in this group of nominees, "Revolting Rhymes" doesn't match up.
What "Revolting Rhymes" does well is defy expectations, especially if you are not familiar with the book. Even though the wolf tells you at the very beginning that his versions of the famous fairy tales are different than what we know and love, it's still a bit shocking to see Red pull out a pistol and shoot Rolf. Once we have that image though, it's not a stretch to see he shoot Rex as well. Where things do turn again is when she pulls the pistol a third time on the pig at the bank.
We also have an unfinished story in that we see the wolf walk into the house with Red's children at the end, but we don't know what else transpires. You can read a synopsis of Part 2 on Wikipedia, or just go watch it on Netflix yourself to find out what happens. You'll see that we miss several key characters that only appear in the second act, including Cinderella and Jack (of beanstalk fame). It's interesting to see how these stories are woven into the overall fabric of the film and would have been nice for them to be considered as part of the nominated content.
I'm just a film buff who wants to watch great movies. Where else to find the best, than the list of those nominated by the Academy each year?