The 15th Annual TIFF Kids International Film Festival for Children
Directed by Patricia Arriaga Jordán
Routine and tedious, Bacalar follows a scrappy twelve-year-old (Michael Ronda's Santiago) as he and a friend (Dianella's Mariana) attempt to rescue three endangered wolf cubs from a team of sinister animal traffickers - with the film also detailing the ongoing exploits of several tenacious police officers (including Kristin Wiig lookalike Carmen Beato's Alma Díaz). It's clear right from the get-go that Bacalar has been infused with a hopelessly bottom-of-the-barrel sensibility by filmmaker Patricia Arriaga Jordán, as the writer/director places an all-too-consistent emphasis on elements of a decidedly low-rent nature - with the less-than-engrossing atmosphere compounded by Jordán's wrongheaded decision to gear the proceedings exclusively towards young children. It is, as such, not surprising to note that the narrative has been suffused with an eye-rolling assortment of kid-friendly attributes (eg inept bad guys, skeptical adults, etc), and, in a far more problematic development, Jordán offers up a time-wasting subplot involving police corruption that will test the patience of even the hardiest viewer. The head-scratching inclusion of supernatural elements (ie Santiago's laughable magic powers) confirms Bacalar's place as a thoroughly wrongheaded piece of work, and it's ultimately impossible not to wonder just what the programmers were thinking when they selected this interminable mess for the festival.
Directed by Jean-François Laguionie
Though it boasts exquisite animation and an admittedly innovative premise, Le tableau is ultimately unable to become the wholeheartedly engrossing adventure that filmmaker Jean-François Laguionie has clearly intended - with the movie's hands-off atmosphere perpetuated both by its slow pace and its lack of compelling protagonists. Le tableau transpires within the landscape of an unfinished painting, where three types of citizens reside: finished drawings called Alldunns, partially completed Halfies, and thinly outlined Sketchies. The narrative follows a trio of disparate figures as they're thrust into a journey far outside the boundaries of their world, with the characters' epic excursion ultimately teaching them lessons of tolerance and acceptance. Director Laguionie has infused Le tableau with a handsome, impressively realized animation style that effectively (and immediately) captures one's interest, with the eye-catching nature of the movie's universe initially compensating for its proliferation of decidedly one-dimensional characters. And although Laguionie has peppered the proceedings with a number of striking interludes (eg a surprisingly dark sequence in which a Sketchie is savagely beaten by a callous Alldunn), Le tableau's pronounced lack of accessible elements, ie the film feels geared primarily towards art aficionados, ultimately prevents the viewer from working up any real interest in or sympathy for the various characters' ongoing exploits - which finally does cement the movie's place as a well-intentioned (yet curiously uninvolving) curiosity.