Two By Two

Despite a decent premise and above-average animation, Two By Two is content to be as formulaic and uninteresting as humanly possible.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

twobytwoI’m struggling to think of an animated film released this decade that has uglier main character designs than the ones that Two By Two sports.  Not the animals that still exist today, save for the King lion who has a really distracting quiff because nobody remembered how bad it looked on Alec Baldwin Lion from Madagascar 2, those all look fine, although they do suffer from the film’s excess colour palette.  The film’s main characters, however, are not real species of animal, so the film’s designers get free reign with regards to their design.

And, oh hell, are they ever unpleasant to look at.  The Nestrians are coated in excess fuzz, they have too many differently-shaped appendages and so little rhyme or reason as to their construction that they basically look like somebody just kept gaffa-taping a children’s playset of shapes together until they got bored, their nose grabs the attention in a bad way, their colour scheme is unnecessarily garish… I get that the point of the film is that the Nestrians are always out-of-place no matter where they are, but they just look plain hideous.  The Grymps are a little better, but they suffer from ill-fitting eyes and needless body patterns that look like bad henna tattoos, whilst the Griffins are just kinda not pleasant to look at, and not in an intended “fierce predator” way.

It’s a shame that those characters are so unappealing to look at, too, because the animation is actually pretty decent compared to most mid-league animated fare.  I mean, the colour palette really is sickeningly bright, and instead of looking convincingly wet during any one of the numerous sequences involving water, characters instead end up looking like shined vinyl models of themselves, but otherwise things are rather decent.  Character animation manages to tow the line between “limited animation” and “just plain cheap” rather well, there’s a nice lived-in feel to the ark, and there’s some decent boarding here and there.  If the character designs weren’t so ugly, this would be an OK movie to look at.

I mean, it’s not a particularly good one to watch.  Yeah, Two By Two is not good.  It’s not bad, but it’s not good, either.  This itself is a shame because the film frequently hints at a much more interesting and entertaining movie than is presented here.  The plot involves two Nestrians, a father and son called Dave and Finney respectively, and two Grymps, a mother and daughter called Hazel and Leah respectively, trying to survive the inbound flood by taking passage on Noah’s ark.  The Nestrians, however, aren’t on the guest list to board the ark and are basically left to go extinct.  Dave stows he and Finny away on the ark, however, by pretending to be Grymps, which causes extra problems when Finny and Leah accidentally miss the launch of the ark and have to find a way to survive the flood and the Griffins hunting them.

There are actual large scale stakes there as well as thematic touches like the strongest deciding who gets to survive and what not – a group made up of the king lion, a flamingo, and an elephant check and decide who is allowed on the ark or not, and they are a group that can barely hide their contempt for the other species – but Two By Two actively goes out of its way to not touch on them.  The extinction risk is left unspoken and is completely undercut by a brief indulgence in cartoon physics that, unsurprisingly, make the life-and-death stakes feel insincere, whilst that thematic underpinning also goes untouched until the ending where, in a very brief line, it’s promptly dropped completely and explained away as a misunderstanding.  It’s a film that seems terrified of getting even slightly dark, keeping up the day-glo sunshine tone regardless of how boringly formulaic it makes the final product.

In a way, that puts it in close proximity to DreamWorks’ recently released Home which back-grounded its themes of colonialism in favour of misfits finding each other, whilst Two By Two backgrounds its themes in favour of things like parental love and finding friends and your place in the world.  But where Home gets away with it by having likeable and entertaining characters, Two By Two’s cast are all really grating.  The Nestrians, who are both excessively optimistic and panicky, are too shrill and irritating, the Grymps, who pride themselves on being loners and hate company, are too needlessly uptight and angry, the Griffins are basically just boring Cockney “Infinity +1” villains, and the other two characters who tag along with Leah and Finny – an overweight land creature named Obesey, and the parasite that lives on top of him and is voiced by radio DJ Chris Evans for some bizarre reason – are incredibly uninteresting and poorly voiced.

So that ends up leaving Two By Two feeling rather emotionally hollow and making its formulaic beat-by-beat nature really obvious.  That’s a shame because the film isn’t bad, really, again excepting its awful lead character designs.  There are a few genuinely funny gags, some scenes are entertaining, the actual animation is fine, and it all works competently, even with flat line readings all about the place.  It’s just not particularly good, or interesting, or original, or doing anything really to adequately justify taking up 80-odd minutes of anyone’s time, especially with how actively it steers itself into formula to avoid those far more interesting avenues.

In fact, that formula was far better served in Ice Age, which actively addressed the extinction stakes and thematic undertones that Two By Two strives to avoid.  Ice Age adopts the appropriate melancholic tone, has pleasant to look at characters who are entertaining to watch and likeable, and aims to be more than just an 80 minute time-killer.  Basically, although there’s nothing fundamentally or majorly wrong with it, there’s no real reason to recommend Two By Two, either.  You’re better off leaving it to drown.

Callum Petch has seen so much he’s going blind.  Follow him on the Twitters: @CallumPetch

Callum is one of a number of guests that occasionally makes appearances on the Failed Critics Film Podcast, hosted by Steve Norman and Owen Hughes. Unfortunately, you won’t find any of our previous 250 episodes dedicated to a Two by Two review, but you can catch up with one of our more recent editions of the slightly shambolic movie podcast by clicking the link at the top of this page, streaming directly from acast.com/failedcitics, or subscribing in iTunes (or whatever your favourite podcast app of choice may be)!

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19 responses to “Two By Two

  1. Pingback: Moomins On The Riviera | failed critics·

  2. This is where you get it wrong – it’s not a film for adults. It’s a cartoon for children – as young as four or five years old. They don’t need the dark undertones, and they haven’t heard of extinction yet (yes, they missed the extinction stakes in Ice Age, thank god). For the children, this film was fun and not scary (which is a good thing, not bad).

  3. All Creatures Big and Small kept my busy body 3- year old twin girls attention and they sat still through the entire movie. They laughed and got excited throughout the movie and asked to watch it again, in fact , they watched it several times before we returned it, so to me it was a fantastic movie overall. My 3- year old twins loved it and so did I. Yes the characters were a little weird looking, but there are real animals in life that looks even weirder and gross. Yes, there are a few parts that needs explanation for example whales can’t live out of water, but that just gives me something else to do with them besides watching tv. The movie has a good message and the creativity captured in this movie encourages the imaginative side of young children. I would let them watch this movie any day over a lot of the cartoons on tv today. I give this movie 5 stars. Maybe you need to open up your creative side a little more..

  4. I disagree with everything you just said in this ridiculous article. This is a CHILDRENS movie. The bright colors are for CHILDRENS because children love color. There is nothing ugly about the movie. It is a super cute story with adorable characters teaching children about friendship and helping others as well as family and expressing your feelings. I think the colors of this movie are beautiful and vibrant and the nestrians are adorable. You have zero taste. Why would a child want to watch a dark movie with serious characters. The whole point is to make it FUN and VIBRANT with a learning lesson. Cute movie, my boys (3&4) and my husband & I have watched it 3 times together and we all love it 😊

  5. What a disappointing review. I bought it for my 6 year old daughter, but I really enjoyed it too. This one will stay in rotation for a while. And the Nestrians grow on you. Kinda like a fungus. Lol. Two thumbs up from all of our family. Sounds like a review written by Frasier Crane.

  6. Sounds to me like “critic” Callum Petch leads a miserable life and finds enjoyment in the unecessary bashing of children’s movies. My daughter loved the movie.

  7. We just finished it and my kids loved it. Ages 1,3 & 5. My favorite part…no fast forwarding!!! Nothing was too dark or scary. I will be buying this one. It’s a fun story that isn’t too serious for my 3 yr old. It teaches friendship, loyalty, helping one another, and even that its okay to go against the grain. I think this reviewer did not look at it through a child’s eyes. It’s a movie for kids and should not be reviewed by someone looking for adult content in something made for kids. Even then, as an adult, I enjoyed watching it with my kids too.

  8. my 10 year old loves it my 7 and 3 year old as well and the I love what every animal in the film looks like my 7 year old wants a toy nestrian and I onestly want a toy grimp

  9. I enjoyed the movie as well and i watched it repeatedly….and by the way my baby lovvvvves it.

  10. Me and my daughter love this movie. I am 55 and my daughter is 29 soon to be 30. We own it and love watching it!! Even my niece and her children love it as well. Love it love it !!!!

  11. I don’t know what is wrong with this critic I thought this movie was great my kids love it an me an my fiancee love it to it is by far better then most of the cartoons on tv today an i think the nestrians are adorable I want a toy of them an the grymps an in glad the Griffins weren’t to scary I wouldn’t want my kids to have nightmares because of a kids movie I give this movie 5 stars an 2 thumbs up

  12. What a rubbish review! This movie was great and I don’t have kids. I wanted something light to watch while I was doing something else and this was brilliant. I’m watching it again today and buying it for my cousins kids.

  13. Pingback: 2016 – Callum Petch·

  14. I thought the film was rubbish. I agree with everything in this review. My daughter ended up sleeping so next time I need to get her to nod off I will put the DVD of this on.

  15. ….. It was a Rhino not an elephant. Maybe you should watch more children’s movies so you can learn your animals. I thought it was a good movie and the bright colors caught the attention of my one year old. He sat and watched the whole thing which is saying a lot.

  16. My two year old twins and seven year old love this movie. I’ve read many scathing reviews and interestingly they all have one thing in common. They all have mistakes. Funny that you can spend a considerable amount of time ripping something to shreds and not get the characters right.

  17. Fantastic movie I found ice age long and boring, Chris the barnacle paracite performed well with his voice recognised him instantly loved his dab pose. My 4 yr old and 12 yr old enjoyed it and we’re captivated from moment it started.
    Obviously they had changed but we decided they were related to otters and see see fish with light reflecting skin. The fur made them cute.

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