Directed by: Mascha Halberstad | 72 minutes | animation, family | Original voice cast: Hiba Ghafry, Kees Prins, Matsen Montsma, Jelka van Houten, Henry van Loon, Loes Luca, Johnny Kraaijkamp, Alex Klaasen, Remko Vrijdag
Every child wants to try a pet at some point. So is Babs (Hiba Ghafry), preferably a puppy. Mother Margreet (Jelka van Houten) and father Nol (Henry van Loon) have to sleep on it for a few nights because their daughter can be quite impulsive. Then grandpa Tuitjes (Kees Prins), who suddenly arrives at the family’s doorstep all the way from America, gives Babs a piglet as a present for her ninth birthday. Babs is immediately in love and calls him Oink. Mother is a lot less pleased with Grandpa and Piglet. She is especially afraid of intruders in her vegetable garden. After all, the family is (self-sufficient!) vegetarian from head to toe. And Margreet doesn’t like that the present comes from her father, who is in fact absent. Grandpa has to stay in the garden house for the time being and Piglet can only stay if he doesn’t eat the vegetable garden or if he poops everything. Together with her good friend Tijn (Matsen Montsma), Babs tries to wash this pig.
By the way, Babs thinks grandpa Tuitjes is a strange fellow and has to get used to his accent, the cowboy hat and the banjo game by moonlight. Moreover, he is quite secretive about a large suitcase he brought with him. Grandpa himself does not care about all kinds of social hassles and the standard greenery on the dining table. In fact, he didn’t just come back to hook up with the family. After decades of absence, he also wants to create a furore at the sausage competition of the Association for Meat Products of Fresh Pigs.
If there’s one thing you don’t get from ‘Own’, it’s grumpy. What a party number! This homegrown animation film is based on the book ‘The Revenge of Knor’ by Tosca Menten. Writer Menten had not expected in her wildest dreams that this would be the result of the collaboration. Yet Menten clearly lies at the origin of the humorous and playful look at complex subjects for the everyday family. What do you actually eat when you eat meat; a father who suddenly leaves home and hearth; dog training for pigs and jokes about poop of course.
Director Mascha Halberstad has earned her stripes in the animation world with, among other things, several short films, a video clip for the band The Prodigy, and the TV series ‘Fox and Hare’ (2018 – …). ‘Own’ seems to be the culmination of the work so far. Her first feature film is both a crafty book adaptation and a visual feat. Sometimes it is also reminiscent of a plump Dutch grandnephew of ‘Fantastic Mister Fox’ (Wes Anderson, 2009); ‘Knor’ is more comical, flatter and more direct than many youth films. The poop jokes do not predominate but there is always room for them. The ensuing slight anarchy is enjoyable for anyone over the age of six. The voice actors also visibly enjoy the material. Especially Kees Prins and Loes Luca (the gruff aunt Christine) go wild on the playful (under)tone. Plus, ‘Own’ is full of mischievous movie references, including to ‘ET’ (Steven Spielberg, 1982) and ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ (George Miller, 2017) (note the tractor scenes!). Following the stop-motion masters of Aardman Animations (‘Wallace & Gromit’, ‘Shaun the Sheep’ et cetera.), Halberstad and her animation team have transformed the tangible clay into something very lively and touching on screen without going on the sentimental tour. They can compete with the best in the genre.
Every now and then the stop motion seems sluggish, as on a late summer day. This is anything but disturbing and strongly supports the dry humor and thoughtful view on social themes. And although the current state of affairs in the meat industry is neither fish nor meat, the film is not grumbling about it in terms of moralism. Could the story perhaps go deeper into certain matters such as the disappearance of grandfather Tuitjes from the life of daughter Margreet? Absolutely no man overboard here, enough wealth and perhaps it is an idea for a spectacular sequel.