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Thursday, February 13, 2014

DVD Review: Noah’s Ark

Noah’s Ark is an animated film telling the story of a god who decides to destroy everyone in the world, except for one old man and his family. That man is tasked with single-handedly building a giant boat and also with saving two of each animal, so that the world can begin again when the rain has subsided. The film follows Noah as well as the animals involved in this twisted punishment of God’s.

Right off the bat, this is an odd one. It opens on a jungle scene, with a snake laughing at a peacock when it’s hit by a pineapple. Several other animals become involved in a weird sort of pseudo-brawl, until suddenly they’re all caught in a large net, along with a jungle man. And then, shockingly, we cut to a market place where all of those animals have been killed and their carcasses are on display for sale. Jungle man is seen in a cage, sold into slavery. Wow. Not your typical children’s film opening.

It gets weirder from there. A large man and a small boy remark on the scene. The man says: “Look at what they’ve done with the world. A storehouse of evil and greed. We had better deal with this at its very root.” The boy says, “You’re not talking about-” The man confirms: “Yes, the final judgment day. It’s time each one pays a debt for what they have done.” Yes, it turns out the man is God, and I guess the whiny boy is Jesus.

Meanwhile Noah is getting out of debt, and going straight back into it, and his family is tired of struggling. Noah says as long as they stick together, they’ll be fine. Oddly, in his home, everyone is arguing, and they all have different accents.

While Noah’s wife is talking to him, he wanders off into the woods because he sees a light. (Apparently, that’s how he remains so calm – he completely ignores his wife.) A voice from above tells him to think of the light as his own personal spotlight. The voice then tells him, “It’s me, God.” Then he tells Noah he plans to flood the Earth, and gives him instructions to build an ark and put his family on it, plus two of every animal. You know the story. What you don’t know is that after Noah has left, God asks the little boy (who apparently isn’t Jesus, but rather some sort of angel employee of God’s that God refers to only as “Angel” rather than by name) how his voice sounded. Yes, God is a little vain.

At dinner, Noah builds an ark out of his mashed potatoes, acting like Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. As for his task of gathering two of every animal, he completely passes that off on some doves, leaving it up to them to accomplish it or not. The doves don’t bother. Instead they go to a bar and get drunk. I’m serious. The movie is so weird. One dove, of course, thinks the story of the flood might be true, and so delivers the messages.

And so the animals gather for a big meeting in the jungle to discuss the situation. We even have a scene of a lion packing for the trip (“I need something classy, just in case there’s a gala…And something to read, of course.”) A unicorn, a dragon and what I’m guessing is a sasquatch show up at the meeting (just one of each), to speak against the whole ark idea, saying it’s a trap by man to hunt them down. Of course, this bit reminds me of the Shel Silverstein song, “The Unicorn.”

Having the animals talk in this film (as they do in most animated films) raises some issues that perhaps the filmmakers didn’t intend. If the animals are intelligent enough to speak and conduct meetings, then they’re intelligent enough to be aware of the situation. And so weren’t some animals heartbroken that the rest of their families were left behind? And weren’t the animals angry at a god who could be so bloody cruel and heartless? And arbitrary too, for after all, what had these animals done to displease this twisted human deity? And if they're this intelligent, why not just build a big boat of their own?

Another question is, If God is so keen on destroying the world, why save anyone or anything? Why not just start from scratch and create all new species? The answer is that God is lazy. He leaves all the work to one old man, and to his angel employee. In fact, God barely pays attention to the results of his flood, checking in only occasionally with the angel to see how things are going. God is more interested in writing a book, but he also has the angel work on that. Basically, God naps and practices his golf swing. When Noah’s family’s prayers disturb his nap, he calls for the little boy to deal with them.

By the way, Noah’s family is made up of idiots. Could this film be a subtle jab at our entire world? It implies that we are all descendants of morons. Morons who will soon, by necessity, begin inbreeding. And speaking of breeding, the male orangutan is clearly meant to be gay, which raises an issue about how that particular species continued.

Anyway, this film has some amazing scenes. Before the animals get on the boat, they discuss the whole food issue. What will the carnivores eat? That leads to hilarious lines like, “The animals would like to know if they’re allowed to feast on each other during the trip.” There is a tiger who wishes to become king of the animals, taking the place of Xiro the lion. The tiger has an incredibly twisted fantasy, which this film is kind enough to show us. It’s one of the most freaky scenes of this completely insane movie, and I won’t spoil it by describing it here. Also, at one point a female panther (who oddly has no male mate) does a cage dance.

Even when the film is over, it continues to be delightfully weird. During the closing credits, Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” plays. But it’s a completely different version, with lyrics about the flood.  Here is a taste: “I want to take away your pain/In a new world that’s free from rain/I want to live.” And this: “I won’t let anybody say what I can eat to stay alive/My appetite is growing/And my teeth are very sharp/I will survive.”

The DVD contains no special features.

Noah’s Ark was directed by Juan Pablo Buscarini, and was apparently originally released in Argentina in 2007 under the title El Arca. It is scheduled to be released on DVD on March 11, 2014 through Shout! Factory.

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