Monday, June 26, 2017

'My Life as a Zucchini' Further Increases the Tally of Stop-Motion Movie Masterpieces

My Life as a Zucchini – alternatively titled as My Life as a Courgette; also Ma vie de Courgette, per its original, native language – is a French stop-motion animated film based on the novel Autobiographie d'une Courgette.  It’s about a nine-year-old boy named Icare who gets sent to a children’s home after accidentally killing his abusive, alcoholic mother.  He prefers to be called “Zucchini”, as it’s what his mother calls him, and keeps a beer can and a kite as mementos of his parents.  In the children’s home, he becomes friends with other abandoned children who have their own particular quirks and tragic backstories.

For every ten stop-motion animated movies made, only three end up being good (e.g. The Boxtrolls, Frankenweenie, Corpse Bride).  The rest?  They are either great or masterpieces (e.g. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, James and the Giant Peach, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Chicken Run, Shaun the Sheep, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Coraline, ParaNorman, Kubo and the Two Strings).  As far as my experience goes, there are no bad or even mediocre stop-motion animated films out there.  Of course, it’s possible there are some, but I really haven’t seen any so far (If I ever encounter one, I will forever lambaste and loathe it, as it would be massively sacrilegious to the medium).  I have a theory that since stop-motion is a long, difficult animation process, only filmmakers and storytellers with legitimate vision would be capable and willing to opt for it.  This means a stop-motion movie will only have the most creative and dedicated creators behind it.
Thus, I expected My Life as a Zucchini to be fantastic – partly because of the sole fact that it’s a stop-motion movie, but also partly because it’s nominated in the last Academy Awards.  And, indeed, it’s another addition to the “masterpiece” tally of stop-motion films.

It only clocks a little over an hour.  But its short running time is sufficient to gratifyingly present the absorbing story of a group of damaged youngsters learning to overcome the profound pain that fate has already dealt them at a young age through hope, friendship, and resiliency.  The narrative has laughter and heartbreaks, and there are even times when the two tones somewhat mix – creating a sort of “black comedy” vibes.  But, even with the amount of dark themes it has to handle, it’s generally optimistic and tender.

Oh, the animation is a delight as well, but that goes without saying.
To sum it up, My Life as a Zucchini is visually endearing, thoughtful, amusing, and emotionally affecting.  It’s thoroughly beautiful.  Only the most hard-hearted and naively unrefined of moviegoers won’t like it.

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