The hero, nine-year old Savva (Jovovich), lives in a village which was once protected by regal white wolves but is now terrorized by fierce hyenas, who imprison the villagers. Savva escapes and sets off on a journey to find the magician who can save the village and on the way teams up with a motley crew of friends – a little pink, cutesy, bunny type creature Pusik (Stone) and a rather irritating sort of musketeer figure Fafl (Geoffrey Cantor) who carries a wise cracking mosquito Komar (Pesci) on his shoulder. The group is protected by Anga (Chase), the last of those white wolves, who once protected the villagers. Along the way they encounter an Aztec type tribe, who adopt Pusik as their god, and are pursued by a tribe of simian creatures led by a three headed monkey queen, the evil Mum JoZee (Goldberg). Are you getting the sources here?
The version of the film we’re seeing here is an American re-voicing of the Russian original, so maybe something got lost in translation. The voice characterisation is good but there is a dearth of charm and wit in the writing. The most engaging character is Anga. Chase’s voice gives him the same reassuring quality as Liam Neeson gave to Aslan, though when he reverts to his mythical form as the prince of a warrior race, the Ringers, who look like a cross between “Lord of the Rings” characters and Darth Vader, he becomes much less attractive.
I’m told the Ukrainians were critical of the film as being racist and demonizing them – the bullying hyenas, who look like their made out of wooly carpet , are apparently in the national colours of the Ukraine. While that won’t worry Western audiences, they might well see the somewhat Afro monkey tribe and the tribe that worship Pusik, who are a sort of cross between Inca/Aztec, African and Native American, as racist in terms of our culture – you have to tread very carefully these days. The pun of the title is mystifying – this is a “tale” and, apart from the monkies, I can’t see that there is any “tail” involved at all!
Very pretty visuals, shame about the story.
Review by Carol Allen