Directed by: Vasiliy Rovenskiy, Natalya Nilova | 84 minutes | animation, adventure | Dutch voice cast: Ivan Pecknik, Paul Boereboom, Dieter Spileers, Jonathan Demoor, Jelle Amersfoort, Bas Keijzer, Luca van Ammers | Original Voice Cast: Drake Bell, Pauly Shore, Danila Medvedev, Jonathan Salway, Bernard Carl, Katherine Marie, Brodey Evan, David Andrew Grout, Stephen Thomas Ochsner, Joseph Sell
One animation film is not the other. Because it is not easy to make an original film, many filmmakers follow the adage “better stolen than badly conceived”. But that “good stealing” is also not that easy. This is proven by the Russian animation film “Big Trip” (2019) by director Vasiliy Rovenskiy, who is mainly active in his own country and makes rather flat romantic comedies in addition to animation films. For “Big Trip” he teamed up with the American Billy Frolick, who co-wrote the successful “Madagascar” in 2005 and can still earn the credits for the many spin-offs and sequels. The films he makes (for example also “Monster Island” in 2017) follow a similar pattern: a motley company of clashing characters goes on an adventure together and must overcome the necessary obstacles along the way. In Russia, that formula apparently works like a charm and so Rovenskiy and Frolick wrote the screenplay for “Big Trip” together. Where the protagonists in ‘Madagascar’ are a lion, a zebra, a giraffe and a hippopotamus, here it is all about a bear, a moose, a tiger and a rabbit who go on a mission and the necessary colorful – and especially busy – encounter animal figures.
Mic-Mic is a grumpy bear who prefers to be left alone (those who know “Masha and the Bear” know that animated Russian bears often suffer from this). He especially gets on his nerves is the unworldly hare Oscar, who has got it into his head to want to fly to the moon with a self-made spaceship. To the dismay of Mic-Mic, that plan is of course completely in the soup. But then a bundle ends up on the sidewalk with the grumpy bear, containing a newborn panda bear that has been delivered to the wrong house by a lost stork. The panda cry is driving Mic-Mic crazy, but Oscar manages to silence him wonderfully, so as long as the panda is with them, Mic-Mic is at the mercy of Oscar to get some rest. Because the baby has to go to his parents as soon as possible, the two decide to take the boat to China. Along the way, they meet a chirpy pelican (with no “off switch”), a scary wolf, a mole who isn’t blind for a change but deaf, and a poetically savvy tiger who likes to quote Shakespeare and Byron. Mic-Mic finds them all equally exhausting, but also realizes that they can only manage to bring the panda bear home together.
The bar is set very high in the field of animation films, thanks to innovative or headstrong studios such as Disney / Pixar, Studio Ghibli, Laika and the Irish Cartoon Saloon. The Russian makers of Big Trip can not come close to that. Everything shows that their technical skills are not as rich as the aforementioned competitors. In fact, here and there it looks quite amateurish what Rovenskiy and co are showing. Moreover, the characters are not very appealing – except perhaps for the fearful wolf – and above all very busy. The team behind “Big Trip” seems to be thinking; let’s cover up our inability with a suffocating sound and color explosion, then it might be less noticeable. But all that noise and fuss make the film very tiring. The balance is also skewed: on the one hand, the film focuses on the smallest viewers (who may even find all that bouncing entertaining), on the other hand, there are ‘jokes’ and references that toddlers and preschoolers will be completely over the hat (the tiger for example). And the message the film aims to convey is one from the “thirteen-in-a-dozen” category. All nice and original, but not really. As inspiring as some animated films have been made, “Big Trip” is so flat. You tend to think that this movie was made purely for commercial purposes. Unfortunately, the public can easily see through that today.