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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

ANIMALS (2012)

What are the odds? Two films released the same year featuring sexually blocked guys in a confining/confiding relationship with a walkin’/talkin’ best pal of a Teddy Bear. Great minds think alike? (If only.) But where Seth MacFarlane’s TED was a potty-mouthed sex comedy on separation anxiety for an emotionally thwarted man-child, Spanish writer/director Marçal Forés is charting child-man rites-of-puberty. And unlike TED’s corporal bear-toy, here the conceit is more of an angst-driven CALVIN AND HOBBES: The High School Years. It works pretty well for the first half-hour as Pol, our teen protagonist, wrestles with friendships (loner or social animal?); budding romance (boy or girl?); home life (no parents, but older controlling brother to rebel against); school assignments (skip class or study with guest-star/teacher Martin Freeman). But tag-along Teddy quickly slips from clever crutch to conceptual drag; even after Pol ties him to a rock and tosses the toy off a bridge. Then it’s back to pampered, oversensitive ‘emo’-types at his elite English-language High School. (Very hard to give a shit about these rich kids.) Maybe if Forés let his cast pick up their cues without so many pensive pauses, or had the filmmaking chops to handle the brief flurries of modest action. Instead, all that self-defeating teenage behavior turns self-defeating.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Included on the disc, a little, quickly made student film from Forés, also called ANIMALS, which takes the conceit about as far as it needs to go in a sketch of a scene later expanded into the full feature. Happily, without the cast of teen-dream brooders. OR: Many think highly of DONNIE DARKO/’01, an obvious influence.

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