Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Animal Farm (1999)
One of my favorite books growing up. I thought I had watched this movie in school at some time and I was right. I continued to watch it anyway. :)Only somewhat faithful to George Orwell's allegorical novel, this made-for-TV adaptation uses real animals as well as Jim Henson's puppets to tell the story of a band of farm animals who stage a revolt against their human owner (Pete Postlethwaite) in a bid for freedom. Several notable names provide the voices of the animals, including Kelsey Grammer as Snowball, Patrick Stewart as Napoleon and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Mollie.
Can "biting satire of totalitarianism" ever coexist in the same sentence as "brought to you by Hallmark?" Yes, if you aren't a purist. Orwell's story is retold through the eyes (and voice) of Jessie the dog. This strategy adds pathos and "humanity" to a rather unemotional and impersonal novella. The downside is that it also adds sentimentality and unnecessary narration (just in case you don't get the point). Thus, the "Hallmark" effect. Orwell's anti-climactic conclusion was also modified to create a Hallmark moment of optimism. Heresy to some, this actually makes sense to have a modern adaptation depict the fall of communism. The core of the story and its satire remain intact. The additional jibe at television as the new opiate of the masses works well, as does its use of mock Socialist Realism styled propaganda film. Thus, the film successfully adapts a 55 year old story that was never meant to be put to the screen in the first place.
Not a bad production (and many bits are actually quite good) *except* for the modified "happy ending". That brought this down to three stars from four stars for me.