Scarygirl is one of those animated productions so loaded with colour and bling, so lit up like a pinball machine, that merely absorbing it makes you feel old. While watching I couldn’t help but wonder if today’s youth consume too many flashing lights and loud noises – and by the way, keep it down, some of us have to work in the morning.
After getting used to the film’s flashy visual effects, it became apparent that directors Ricard Cussó and Tania Vincent’s creative contributions were mainly on the surface. The story follows the classic hero’s journey, where a young character embarks on an adventure, faces challenges, and ultimately confronts a talkative villain with a troubled past. Voiced by Sam Neill, the villain, Dr Maybee, is part of an impressive cast that includes Tim Minchin, Deborah Mailman, Anna Torv, Dylan Alcott, Mark Coles Smith, and Rob Collins.
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Most adults are probably wondering if they can watch Scarygirl with their child, like they recently did with Puss in Boots and Spider-Verse. Unfortunately, the answer is likely no. While the movie, based on Nathan Jurevicius’s graphic novel, is visually appealing, it may not be very engaging for older viewers. The script is predictable and lacks originality.
The main character is named Arkie (voiced by Jillian Nguyen), a goth octopus with human-like characteristics (surprising, right?!) such as black hair, an eye patch, a tentacle-shaped arm, a large head, and a small body that is disproportionate. She has a similar appearance to a character from Tim Burton’s creations – spooky yet cute. The story begins with a prologue that introduces Arkie’s peaceful community, located by the beach and mountains. However, it also foreshadows the upcoming trouble for her father, Blister (voiced by Rob Collins), who is a rare Giant Octopus with the features of a toy squid and broccoli shoot.
In a bar known as the City of Light, a customer wearing a robe and with glowing yellow eyes asks a underworld figure, who has a thick Australian accent, to send his bounty hunters to retrieve a squid for her. In that moment, I may have considered the flexibility of consciousness and the perception of reality, but there is no time for contemplation. The scene quickly shifts to a peninsula where Arkie visits her father, who possesses the ability to regenerate life for unknown reasons. As a giant beam of light ominously reaches towards the sky, resembling a villain’s weapon in a superhero movie, we discover that there are people who are “dangerous and selfish” and do not see the world as we do, draining resources from the sun.
My thought that perhaps this will turn into a climate change analogy solidified when Blister says, “C’mon kiddo, let’s go help some plants.” But the environmental messages are half-baked, put to the side in favour of the aforementioned conventional villain, who operates that beam-like energy zapper. This cranky chap’s backstory gets much attention in the last act, during which an unexpected connection is revealed between him and the hero because – plot twist – “this time it’s personal”.
The movie’s visual style is not entirely unique, but it is definitely striking, although somewhat cute and reminiscent of computer graphics, similar to cutscenes in a video game aimed at children and influenced by a vaguely stop-motion aesthetic. It would have been great for some of that boldness to also be reflected in the writing. The film follows the expected formula, ticking off all the necessary elements. A prologue? Check. A bit of worldbuilding? Check. Emotional bonding scenes before the disruption of the status quo? Check. Entering into dangerous situations? Check. A crisis that could potentially destroy the planet? Check. A moralistic resolution? Check.
The top-rated family films bring out the inner child in adults and the mature side in kids. However, this particular movie confuses vibrant visuals with true artistic expression, resulting in a lackluster script. It could have benefited from incorporating some of Blister’s rejuvenating abilities.