Saturday, January 27, 2024

Animation First ’24: When Adam Changes

Poor Adam seems to have a mutant case of puberty. Whenever he finds himself in a socially awkward situation, his body visibly alters, especially his “long torso.” Unfortunately, that means his lower belly is hanging out there pretty much throughout Joel Vaudreuil’s animated feature, When Adam Changes, which screens today as part of this year’s Animation First.

In 1990s Quebec, Adam gets bullied a lot for his stooped shoulders, pudgy midrift, and that darned torso (which keeps growing with each callous remark), particularly by his “beloved” grandmother, Ange. Her death hits his mother hard, but it leaves him confused about how he should feel and react. Adam is not a bad guy, so his older sister really ought to have his back more. Unfortunately, she is distracted by her toxic relationship with her unfaithful boyfriend.

Adam obviously carries a torch for a pretty girl, who maybe recognizes he is smarter than most of their classmates, but whenever he tries to engage with her, she always seems to disappoint him. It also seems like he is the only teen in the entire school who must work over the summer. Much to his chagrin, his father committed him for two jobs. One is a house-sitting gig that isn’t bad. However, mowing the lawn of a crazy grass-obsessed neighbor is a miserable experience.

When Adam Changes
is a somewhat nostalgic viewing experience, but it is neither as deep or as idiosyncratic as it hopes to be. It all feels very familiar, sort of like Mike Judge rebooting Napoleon Dynamite with some of the animated cast of King of the Hill, dubbed into French. In fact, the animation somewhat resembles King, but with harder, cleaner lines. Vaudreuil also throws in some Bill Plympton-like flights of fancy, but again, they are rendered with sharper definition.

Still, Vaudreuil’s lowkey payoff hits the right humanistic note. He deftly brings out Adam’s sensitive soul, so viewers will absolutely root for the plugger. It is all very nice, but it does not have a great deal of lasting power. An okay diversion, but far from essential viewing,
When Adam Changes screens tonight (1/27) in New York, at the 2024 Animation First festival.