VOD Review - Animals (2013)

Oriol Pla in "Animals"
After a montage of various woodland creatures, some of which intersect with the man-made world, one would assume this film might itself be an intersection of the animal kingdom with man-made order, and for the most part that's what it is or tries to be. Unfortunately, there's so many things that just don't make any sense.

Oriol Pla stars as Pol, a high school boy whose best friend is a walking and talking, teddy bear. At first, it seems like writer-director Marçal Forés is riffing off Seth MacFarlane's Ted, but in a more dramatic fashion. Yet, Forés offers no explanation for where the teddy bear originated.

All we know is that the teddy bear speaks English, as opposed to everyone else around him, including Pol who is bilingual but favors Catalan. The teddy bear is intelligent and self-aware but his voice is very robotic in sound. One might assume the teddy bear is a tiny robot, but after a fretful encounter with a dog, it's quickly revealed that there's nothing robotic about the teddy bear. It's nothing but cloth stuffing on the inside.

Javier Beltrán co-stars as Llorenç, the older brother of Pol and his primary care-giver. No explanation is given as to where their parents are, but Llorenç works as a police officer and for some reason is the only person there to raise and look after Pol. Llorenç worries about Pol because he thinks Pol is a bit crazy for talking to a teddy bear at his age.

Like in the film Child's Play (1988), the teddy bear is only animated when Pol is alone. Anytime Llorenç or any other person is present, the teddy bear is very inanimate, so Llorenç assumes Pol is hallucinating or having some kind of mental breakdown. Whether the teddy bear is a figment of Pol's imagination or something magical is clearly reconciled, certainly by the end and also half-way thorugh, but it would have been better if Forés had played with the concept more.

It was cute to see the teddy bear playing drums in Pol's two-man-band, which used to include his brother, but now mostly features Pol on rock guitar and vocals. It was cute, but I never fully understood the relationship between Pol and the teddy bear. It wasn't like Pol didn't have friends. If the teddy bear was a substitute or fill-in for not having parents, Forés could have made that more clear. The text suggests that the teddy bear is a fill-in for Pol's brother, but that makes no sense as Llorenç seems to be one of the most attentive brothers ever seen on film.

It's just unclear why Pol keeps talking to the bear or why it keeps coming back to him. Things, however, get increasingly more bizarre when, despite having a girlfriend named Laia, played by Roser Tapias, Pol starts developing homosexual feelings for fellow classmate Ikari, played by Augustus Prew.

Ikari seduces Pol into engaging in some frightening sadomasochistic rituals. Another classmate named Clara goes missing and is presumed dead. This leads one of Pol's eccentric friends, Mark, played by Dimitri Leonidas, to go to extremes, ending in an explosive situation on Halloween, but I wasn't sure why or what he really thought he'd accomplish.

The film reaches its final moments and when you think it couldn't get any crazier, it goes completely off the rails. I simply couldn't fathom or discern Pol's actions. I'm not sure what he wanted or why. I'm certainly unsure of what the director thought that ending was supposed to mean or how it was supposed to satisfy.

Martin Freeman (Sherlock and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) who is the biggest name in this production is also wasted.

One Star out of Five.
Not Rated but recommended for mature audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 35 mins.


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