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Robin Robin ★★★★★



Director(s): Mikey Please & Dan Ojari

Stars: Bronte Carmichael, Gillian Anderson, Richard E. Grant, Adeel Akhtar

Release Date: November 27th, 2021 (Netflix)

Robin Robin, the latest stop-motion animation from Bristol-based industry titans Aardman, marks several firsts for the studio. It’s their first stop-motion Christmas film, their first musical, their first Netflix collaboration, their first time working with directors Mikey Please and Dan Ojari, and their first foray into needle-felt work as well. But, in many ways, this festive tale about family and self-acceptance is as Aardman as it gets, offering the abundant wit, glowing warmth, instantly unforgettable characters, and utterly indelible hand-crafted touch that has made a national institution of the Wallace & Gromit creators.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Robin Robin centres around a robin called Robin (played with vigour by Christopher Robin star Bronte Carmichael). In a beautifully realised opening sequence that tracks her egg’s journey from treetop downstream to a rubbish dump, we see Robin hatch in front of a family of mice. Taking her in as one of their own, the family – headed by Adeel Akhtar’s softly spoken patriarch – bring Robin along on their nightly sneaks into the world of ‘Hoomuns’ for food. However, even though she has mouse ears (a lovely quirk with a witty pay-off later in the short) and is one of the family, Robin’s clumsiness leaves her feeling like she’ll never belong.

Deciding to prove herself by pulling off the ultimate heist with trinket-obsessed old-timer Magpie (Richard E. Grant – a thespian dream), Robin sets out to take a magical wishing star from the top of a Hoomun Christmas tree so that she may turn into a real mouse. As the unlikely duo evade a villainous cat played by a purr-fectly cast Gillian Anderson and set about their quest though, Robin comes to learn who she really is, surprising herself as she learns that maybe there’s more to being a mouse than being a mouse. That may sound confusing, in fact, Akhtar’s dad mouse says as much himself, but under Please and Ojari’s direction, it makes perfect sense. 

Robin Robin Film Image

Based on a tale the directors have been telling their families for years, Robin Robin has the beautiful quality of feeling timeless and modern all at once. Much of this comes in the directors’ storyteller approach to the writing, which marries classical Christmas story themes of togetherness and thankfulness with a playful sense of humour that feels right at home with Aardman’s established brilliance at deceptively whipsmart silliness both in dialogue and sightgags. The choice to use needle-felt for the animation is also a key part of the traditional being applied in a modern, new manner. The chosen material makes the film feel like a set of Christmas tree decorations come to life while allowing Aardman to branch out from their comfort zone in the world of claymation to create characters whose fuzzy forms are mirrored in the fuzzy, festive feeling they promise to give audiences watching at home. 

The film also boasts a wonderful little songbook, which is vitally important to its success as this is a fully-fledged, all-singing-all-dancing musical. The musical is a new frontier for the studio that Please and Ojari conquer alongside The Bookshop Band with an array of earwormy, lilting melodies. Numbers like ‘Rules of the Sneak’ and ‘The Perfect Place’ in particular are just outstanding, the former of which is a Jona Lewie reminiscent piece that soundtracks the most uproarious sequence of the film, one which sees Robin teach Magpie her woeful sneaking skills in a succession of increasingly calamitous pratfalls. Aardman’s works have always been a testament to the power of precise timing for maximum comical effect, and so it is surprising that they haven’t ventured into the territory of musicals before, a genre so dependent on that same audiovisual finesse – if Robin Robin’s perfectly pitched symbiosis of melody and humour is anything to go by, then this surely won’t be their last.

With enthusiastic voice performances all round, a sincere and heartfelt sentiment, and a central character who is boundlessly empathetic and endearing, Robin Robin will almost certainly settle alongside the likes of Father Christmas and The Snowman as an annual Christmas tradition for families far and wide to honour together. Combining the qualities that define Aardman as a studio with an inventive exuberance that pushes the form further in a bold, new direction, this is truly a gift to be treasured.

Jordan King, Author at Movie Marker

Robin Robin (TV Special 2021) – IMDb

A simple guy. Loves film. Watches film. Writes about film. Talks about film. Then the cycle repeats.

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