Review: Gruesome Rhymes Part 1 – Revolting Rhymes Part One (2016)


Gruesome Rhymes Part 1 – Revolting Rhymes Part One (2016)

Directed by: Jan Lachauer, Jakob Schuh, Bin-Han To | 29 minutes | animation, short film | Original voice cast: Tamsin Greig, Dominic West, Rob Brydon, Bertie Carvel, Gemma Chan, Rose Leslie, David Walliams, Dolly Heavey, Eden Muckle, Dylan Issberner, Amelie Forester-Evans, Dennis Storhøi

It is an established annual tradition in Britain; the BBC Christmas Shorts. An animation film will be launched especially for the holidays that reflects the nostalgic, warm feelings associated with that time of year. Illustrious children’s books like ‘The Gruffalo’, ‘Room on the Broom’ and ‘Stick Man’ – coincidentally all three by Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler – found their way onto the small screen in this way. The team behind those three film adaptations, the Germans Jakob Schuh and Jan Lachauer of Magic Light Pictures Berlin, started working in 2016 on Roald Dahl’s ‘Revolting Rhymes’ (translated into Dutch as ‘Gruwelijke Rijmen’), the collection of poems that the renowned British children’s author wrote in 1982. In the collection, Dahl gives his own black-comedy twist to six well-known fairy tales, namely ‘Cinderella’, ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’, ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’, ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ and ‘The Wolf and the Three Little Pigs’. Five of the six stories have found their place in the film adaptation, and three of them can be seen in the Oscar-nominated for best short animated film ‘Revolting Rhymes Part One’ (2016).

An elderly woman enters a restaurant and takes a seat at one of the tables. A large wolf approaches her and asks if he can join her. Although the woman is a bit hesitant, she agrees. Then the wolf begins to tell his story, about the two nephews he once had, about the true nature of Little Red Riding Hood and about the fact that Snow White is actually a blonde. The wolf reminisces about how Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White once became friends, how Snow White ran away from her evil stepmother and how Little Red Riding Hood eventually turns into a wolf slayer. Although in Dahl’s collection of poems the stories are told separately, the fairy tales run right through each other here. The three little pigs and the seven dwarfs are also involved in an inventive way. Thanks to a strong voice cast, with Dominic West as narrator and Rob Brydon, David Walliams and Tamsin Greig in various roles, Dahl’s great rhymes are delivered razor-sharp and with the right tone.

Anyone familiar with the collection of poems will notice that the ends here and there are very creatively tied together. It also takes some getting used to the CGI style; We prefer to see Dahl’s work accompanied by nonchalant, loose illustrations by Quentin Blake. But once we’ve flipped that switch and embraced Schuh and Landauer’s animation style – similar to that of ‘The Gruffalo’ (2009) – ‘Revolting Rhymes Part One’ is extremely entertaining. West deserves credit for making the wolf human and endearing; our sympathy is surprisingly with him and not with the unsympathetic Little Red Riding Hood. And that has also been different! This first part ends with a cliffhanger, so you really want to see the second part too. Charming, funny and despite the new approach made with respect for Dahl and his work.

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