Monday, December 26, 2016

MICFF ’16: Molly Monster

Which came first, the monster or the egg? That question is a little too deep for a little monster like Molly, but she understands where baby monsters come from. Momma monsters give birth to eggs that poppa monsters then hatch. The hatching takes place on Egg Island, where monster children are not typically allowed. However, Molly is not the sort to be intimidated by tradition in Matthias Bruhn, Michael Ekbladh & Ted Sieger’s Molly Monster (sometimes billed as Ted Sieger’s Molly Monster, trailer here), which screens (in an English dub) during the 2016 Miami International Children’s Film Festival.

Even if you did not grow up with the beloved German cartoon series created by Sieger, it will not take long to get the gist of Molly’s world. She is a sweet kid, who spends most of her agreeable days playing with her best friend Edison, a sentient wind-up rodent toy. However, the little monster on the way threatens to disrupt their equilibrium. Ironically, it is not Molly who is jealous at the prospect of losing the attention of her parents, Popo and Etna. It is Edison who worries Molly will lose interest in him.

Molly was excited to make the journey to Egg Island, so she is crestfallen to learn she will have to stay at home with her goofball Uncles, Alfredo and Santiago. However, when she realizes the baby’s hat has been left behind, she gives her idiot uncles the slip and heads off towards Egg Island, with the reluctant Edison in tow.

Molly Monster the character and the film are both very sweet, but they definitely skew towards younger viewers. Still, there is nothing wrong with a little sweetness in a film like this. It shouldn’t be much of a spoiler to assure parents eventually the family gets back together again and everyone learns a few lessons along the way. There is absolutely no subtext for adults to pick up on, but the animation is pleasingly bright and colorful.

Parents can also appreciate the virtues Molly Monster demonstrates: filial love, loyalty, determination, and just enough rebelliousness to be interesting. It is also healthy to introduce kids to animated characters that do not come with their own line of merchandising, at least in this country.

Molly Monster is well-intentioned and nicely executed. It has a lot of merit as a family film, but it will probably not reward animation connoisseurs like GKIDS’s more sophisticated releases. Regardless, it is good to see Molly Monster has more screenings ahead of it, including her Florida premiere today at noon (12/26) and this Thursday morning (12/29), during the Miami International Children’s Film Festival.