Yet Another Substandard English Dub of a Foreign Film
At a glance Agent FOX bears a striking resemblance to Disney’s blockbuster Zootopia. We have a city full of anthropomorphic animals, a case study on the tumultuous relationship between foxes and rabbits, we even have a possibly-corrupt government system driving the motivations of the lead characters.
However, that’s where the similarities between the two films end. While Zootopia brilliantly shrinks the world in which we live into a microcosm of accuracy and brilliance, Agent FOX takes the same initial elements and garbles them up into a collection of scenes held together by terrible acting and a senseless plot.
Of course, these harsh assessments apply to the direct-to-DVD English dub of the film; the original Chinese movie upon which it’s based may well be a masterpiece.
That said, 兔子镇的火狐狸 also known as The Firefox of Bunnington Burrows is a Chinese 3D computer animated fantasy adventure film directed by Ge Shuiying. It was released theatrically on October 30, 2014 in both 2D and 3D. On July 1st, 2014 Kaboom Entertainment released the DVD version being reviewed here domestically. It comes in at a run-time of 83-minutes.
The story here tells of Agent FOX (Shannon Settlemyre) having been sent to Carrot Town via a hot air balloon shaped like a giant cat head (nothing high profile about this) to find a lost artifact, the guardian amulet.
Carrot Town, as you may have surmised, is a city full of rabbits. When he’s immediately found out, the residents confuse him for a long-tail rabbit cousin and he goes along with the tale, pretending to have lost his memory so that he can hang around and seek out the amulet.
As he lingers on in C-Town, he begins to learn lessons from the creatively named Elder (Anthony Yeager), becomes friends with equally craftily named Princess Bunny (Ashley Bril), and shares his invention skills with a spider professor named… Professor Web.
Along the way the production team tries every trick in the book to make the piece somewhat endearing; from a strangely out of place emotional opening and closing narration (but who’s doing the speaking, I’m still not entirely sure), to an overacted vocal cast that manage to unintentionally remind the viewer constantly that voice acting is tougher than Pixar makes it look.
As is so often the case with dubbed foreign films, the visuals here are not to blame for the film’s shortcomings. Everything is clean and well animated. The character models aren’t anything to write home about but they’re easily identifiable and get the job done. In fact they’re about on pace with what DreamWorks was giving us back in 2006 with Over the Hedge. Where things get ugly is the plot itself; namely the lack thereof. Rather than come off as a focused narrative or a comedic adventure story, Agent FOX meanders around with a plot that is, at the same time, overly simplistic and complicated.
What’s actually happening is as simple as a story gets: The lead character is trying to find an object that he’s been ordered to find among a misunderstood society. What you think is happening is a lot more complex on account of a whole bunch of muddled elements like never revealing exactly what it is he’s after, what it does, why it matters.
Worse still is FOX is ordered about by a faceless, top-hat sporting commander named Commander who, not unlike Dr. Claw from the old Inspector Gadget cartoons, is only seen on camera from the back of his chair in a control room. What’s wrong with this, you wonder? Well, nothing except that the character is so overacted and one-dimensional that any hope for genuine hero growth or realistic motivations because of his influence goes right out the window.
Kids may laugh at the abundant slapstick or tune in (temporarily) because of the cuteness of the characters but it doesn’t take long for even the most nondiscriminatory among us to discover the painful pace of the plotting, the lack of story, the poor acting and the bland conclusion all equate to time better spent watching almost anything else instead.