It is now both Kids Film Friday and Title is The Plot Week. It is a confluence of themes. I spent most of today trying to think of something that fit both categories. Eventually I had to just wing it, and luckily fate pointed me to today’s entry:
I prefer the French title*.
A brother and sister and their cousin drink a mad scientist’s potion that turns them into fish. They have 48 hours to get to the antidote or they’ll be stuck in their new form. Meanwhile, a pilot fish has got the antidote and has developed the power of speech, and an evil streak…
This movie is a true international production: Danish writers; Irish, Canadian and Danish money; German animators; English, Canadian and American voice cast. It’s understandable to expect a bit of a mess from all that, but this works surprisingly well and has some surprisingly dark moments too. It starts off with a very stylised underwater sequence accompanied by a kind of smooth jazz song by Eddi Reader which I was really enjoying until the shitty Euro-dance-pop theme song comes in. If I wasn’t on a deadline I might have turned the thing off at that point, but no.
We soon meet our “hero”, Fly and his little sister Stella, and cousin Chuck, played by Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul (yes, really). While he is obviously quite protective of his sister, Fly is a bit of a dick to Chuck. It’s only after Chuck saves all their lives at the end that he warms up a bit. But I’m getting ahead of myself, While out fishing, the kids accidentally stumble across the hidden lab of Professor MacKrill, voiced by Monty Pythonlegend Terry Jones. Convinced of the imminent melting of the polar ice caps, MacKrill has developed a potion that can turn people into fish, in order to survive when the water level rises. Little Stella accidentally gets a taste of this cocktail, and the boys have to drink up too so they can rescue her from the ocean and then get themselves turned back in time. Hijinks ensue.
The best thing about this film though is Alan Rickman as Joe, the pilot fish. As soon as he gets a taste of the dropped antidote he becomes an absolute magnificent bastard, with the shark he used to follow around now his dumb-as-a-sack-of-hammers sidekick. His plan is to get more of the stuff so he can continue getting more intelligent, while doling a little of it out to all the other fish in the ocean and building himself a civilisation to rule. The design of Joe is actually quite creepy, in a refreshingly non-Disney way, and he is not afraid of ordering the death of those who defy him. There are plenty of fish skeletons floating about that have got on his bad side. I guess it comes in handy to have a pet shark that is 30 times bigger than you.
As I mentioned earlier, this has some moments of darkness in the story. That will be the European sensibility at work. Going right back to the Grimm Brothers stories, we’re not afraid to go to those places in our kids fiction. The final ten minutes alone have the lead child-fish getting side-swiped by a giant crab with blood gushing out of him in glorious slow motion, as well as the rather unpleasant demise of one of the villains. Yes, actual demise. There are no pat lessons to be learned here. The baddies don’t ride (swim) off into the sunset as better people (fish); they just get killed in unsettlingly imaginative ways and that’s the end of it.
Despite the somewhat cringeworthy title, and the shockingly awful theme song that shat all over the radio back in 2000, this is a nice little film. Its morals are there, but you don’t feel bashed about the head by them. Older kids around seven or eight years old would probably really enjoy this.
*Gloups! Je Suis Un Poisson!