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Animal Farm

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Critics' Reviews

AMG Review
Mike Cummings
In this 1999 adaptation of George Orwell's Animal Farm, special effects coax farm animals to speak out against tyranny and reenact the 1917 Russian Revolution. Studio wizardry turns real and almost-real pigs, ducks, chickens, and sheep into lip-synching actors portraying political heroes, villains, and the easily led hoi polloi. However, the dramatis personae lack the sassy vibrancy of cartoon characters. Moreover, close-ups of Old Major, the Lenin figure personified by the voice of Peter Ustinov, and Napoleon, the Stalin figure personified by the voice of Patrick Stewart, reveal these two pigs as little more than slobbering machines. When the jaws of either pig move, the viewer wonders how much gadgetry Jim Henson's Creature Shop used to create the illusion. In the end, what the film gives the audience is artificial realism that deadens the characters and reduces them to high-tech puppets. Consequently, the characters cannot generate the kind of hyperbole and whimsy that animate cartoon characters and make fantasy fun. During the 90-minute running time of the film, director John Stephenson and producer Robert Halmi Sr. generally adhere to the plot of Orwell's 1947 novel satirizing the excesses of communism. But they do take liberties on occasion, most notably when they show the collapse of the Animal Farm wall to symbolize the fall of the Berlin Wall. The solemn, humorless atmosphere pervading the production tends to make viewers yearn for a Daffy Duck or a Pluto to enliven it. ~ Mike Cummings, Rovi
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