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ANNECY 2024

Review: Into the Wonderwoods

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- Vincent Paronnaud and Alexis Ducord deliver a mega-dynamic and incredibly funny film for all audiences about a very young adventurer who never gives up

Review: Into the Wonderwoods

"I’ve been thrown into a parallel world where danger lurks everywhere, for real this time, but nothing can stop me in my quest". At ten years old, our imaginations still win out and the powerful flexibility of thought can transform each and every fragment of the universe ruled over by adults into a vast, magical playing field… Obviously, intermixed with calls of "dinnertime!", "brush your teeth!", "bedtime!", "time for school!" and "be careful!”, not to mention busy parents and siblings who aren’t always caring, a wealth of reality which we must all learn to live with and which doesn’t always run smoothly, inside or outside of the family circle, what with belligerent dictators, consumerist fraud and the profound destruction of the planet. But for the young protagonist of this eminently likeable movie Into the Wonderwoods [+see also:
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, by French duo Vincent Paronnaud (Persepolis [+see also:
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) and Alexis Ducord (Zombillenium [+see also:
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film profile
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), which was unveiled in a Special Screening within the 77th Cannes Film Festival’s Official Selection and is now gracing the Official Competition of the 43rd Annecy International Animation Film Festival, there’s a whole other emergency at play: "we have to save granny", who’s on the verge of death.

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And so the entire family (father, mother, baby who’s 12 months-plus, and a surly and aggressive teenager who’s glued to his phone and who nicknames Angelo "egg head") embarks on a car journey (driven by an invasive AI system) into the countryside which is home to granny, who’s adored by her grandson for her good advice ("if you need to make an important decision, listen to the little voice inside of yourself, and if someone bothers you, flick them the V-sign") and for her tendency to distribute sweets and "nice-smelling cuddles". But during the frenzy of a twilight break in an isolated service station, Angelo is left behind.

Finding himself all alone, our young hero ("adventurers laugh in the face of danger") disappears into the forest and soon-after another dimension, because the area is being attacked by Ultra, a narcissistic and violent despot in a spaceship who dreams of finding and monopolising the mysterious source of immortality and who is prepared to destroy the forest with his battalions of robots and his "weapon for the mass destruction of chlorophyll" to achieve his goal. Thrust into the midst of this vital war, Angelo meets an army of ants, a squirrel called Fabrice (who dreams of becoming a bird), the green golem Goouh, toad Franky, an incredibly anger-prone cloud, a ghost from the swamps who sells elixirs, an ogre (whose anti-meat patches do nothing to contain his appetite) and his young daughter Zaza, a masked resistance fighter who sets the tone when faced with the mortal threat posed by Ultra: "are we going to let him do what he wants and do nothing? I say no, we need to come together and fight". 

Buoyed by a hectic pace and carried by a rich inventiveness which joyfully recycles archetypes from fairy tales and modern concerns, Into the Wonderwoods (adapted by Vincent Paronnaud from one of his comic books, written under the pen-name Winshluss) is a film packed full of humour, which manages to be accessible to younger audiences whilst also entertaining adults, and which tackles wholly serious subjects (ranging from death, the fact that not all stories end well and that we don’t always turn out to be who we’re supposed to be, to the fight for survival in the face of ultraliberal capitalism, robotisation and despotic designs) under the kindly cloak of some fast-paced action and "the call of the forest".

Into the Wonderwoods is produced by Je Suis Bien Content, in co-production with Gao Shan Pictures and Luxembourg firm Zeilt Productions. Urban Sales are steering international sales.

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(Translated from French)

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