Sunday, April 16, 2006

Kirikou and the Sorceress (2000)

Disarming African animated film (based on ancient West African legends) about a superhuman baby (so talented that he delivers himself from his own mother's womb) who uses his size and his wits to triumph over a cruel sorceress that has his village in thrall. The look of the film is jazzy and stylized, expressive without being flashy or showy. It comfortably inhabits its cultural niche as a throwback to days of myth while also retaining a certain rounded modernism; thus by keeping its feet in two different periods, the film's design approaches honest timelessness. The story is pretty basic hero's-quest stuff, but it's buoyed by the unflappable ingenuity and optimism of Kirikou. There's also a ready-made subtext, for those who care to dig into their kiddie-flick entertainment (impoverished and drought-stricken African villagers kept down by a ruthless, gold-hungry despot who uses threats, minions and propaganda to keep the populace in line? where do they get these kinds of ideas?) The major stumbling block to this already being a treasured children's classic is the cultural divide between Africa and America, but I'm not talking about race. I'm talking about the fact that there's more boobies and general nudity in this than most parents could probably handle. It's non-exploitative and culturally appropriate, but it's there anyway. So it instead get relegated to the sideline of the animation buff. More's the pity -- this here's pretty cool.

Grade: B+


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