Is it possible to have sympathy for a universally recognized “bad guy” like the Big Bad Wolf? Well, “Revolting Rhymes,” one of this year’s five nominees at the Oscars for Best Animated Short Film, looks to do just that. Based on the stories by Roald Dahl, The British short marks the second bids for both Jakob Schuh and Jan Lachauer. Schuh was nominated in this category in 2010 for “The Gruffalo” and Lachauer was also nominated in this category in 2013 for “Room on the Broom.”
When a woman enters a restaurant, the Big Bad Wolf follows her inside and sits with her in the same booth. She says she is about to babysit the children across from the diner. He sees she has a book of fairy tales and laments how the book doesn’t portray the characters accurately. He also mentions that he used to have two nephews and goes on to tell how they both died. His story begins with Red Riding Hood and Snow White becoming friends after the death of Snow’s mother. Snow’s father remarries to a woman with a magic mirror.
Years later as a teenager, Snow’s step-mother orders the Huntsman to kill her after her mirror says she is no longer the most beautiful. The Huntsman kidnaps Snow and Red tries to save her but the Huntsman gets away, dropping his pistol in the process, which Red claims. The first of the Wolf’s nephews ventures out of the forest and finds the house of Red’s grandmother. He enters and devours her and dresses in her clothing in order to eat Red. When Red arrives, she immediately realizes that a wolf is pretending to be her grandmother, shoots it dead and makes him into a fur coat. After the Huntsman refuses to kill her, Snow starts living with seven former jockeys who are also compulsive gamblers.
Meanwhile, the pig who runs the bank decides to give a loan to two other pigs who are building a development of houses made of straw and twigs. The banker pig does this by using the money that everyone else has deposited. When the wolf’s other nephew sees the two pigs scouting for their development, he eats them and then seeks more food. The wolf ends up at the bank but when he’s unable to get to the banker pig, he vows to be back with dynamite. The banker pig calls Red for help and she comes over and kills the other wolf with the same pistol. The pig thanks her but when she sees that he’s been embezzling everyone’s money, she kills him as well.
Back with Snow White, the jockeys have gambled away all their money. Snow decides to break into her old castle and steal the magic mirror so that they’ll start betting on the right horses. The mirror also shows that Red is on her way into the city. Snow and the jockeys all go to find her and they finally reunite. They bet everything they have and end up winning big and becoming filthy rich. We cut back to the restaurant and see that the Wolf has tied up the old woman and put on her clothes. We see that Red is the mother of the kids who are being babysat and that Red is going out with Snow for the evening. The wolf goes up to the door and enters the house.
Does this different take on children’s stories have what it takes to claim Oscar gold? Let’s examine the pros and cons that it brings to this year’s competition.
The film manages to be both fun and dark at the same time.
Like the films the nominees were previously recognized for, it has a very distinct animation style that is very imaginative.
The way that the film’s dialogue is all done in rhyme is delightful.
The nominated film is only the first part. Without the second part, the film can feel like it’s lacking closure.
The adaptation is missing a good amount of Roald Dahl’s cheekiness.