At their Sydney Wildlife Park, Maddie, Frank, Zoe and Nigel are deadly.
But hey, this is Australia, and it’s good to be Deadly, right?
For a taipan snake, a thorny devil lizard, a hairy spider, and a scorpion, that’s not quite the case, as tourists see them as “killers and monsters.”
In a new animation from Netflix, these 4 just want to be loved and go back to their real home in the backcountry. Wise old crocodile Jackie (Jacki Weaver), who has seen it all, has instilled in them a sense of family and courage, enough to break free from the daily shows hosted by zookeeper Chaz (Eric Bana) and his brave apprentice son ( Diesel La Torraca).
Go back inland it is based on color and CGI animation with all the finesse of a Pixar feature film. It is written and co-directed by Australian Harry Cripps (The dry penguin flower) but the production team does Kung Fu Panda, Titans, Prince of Egypt on their collective CV, giving this one some serious pedigree.
From the opening wide shots of Sydney Harbor to Taronga Zoo meets Irwin and beyond, it looks immaculate. Sydney buildings, the Opera House, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the streets of The Rocks are convincingly animated.
Yet it’s Cripps’ characters and lively voice cast that give this story its heart.
Isla Fisher plays Maddie, a snake with a heart of gold, Guy Pearce adopts the character’s voice as a furry spider in love Frank’s prone to interpretive dance, joining Miranda Tapsell as the confident thorny devil lizard Zoe and Angus Imrie as the sensitive scorpion Nigel.
“I’m not a monster, am I?” asks Maddie.
The bane of their existence is “Pretty Boy”, a cute and popular Koala (Tim Minchin) who is pampered and preened, with his 24/7 webcam broadcasting from Paris to the Space Station. He will be crushed by a koala in the cheeky escape plan and held hostage by the 4 mortal friends.
The following is a
cat and mouse chasing reptiles and zookeepers through the Blue Mountains to Uluru, encountering other animals and near misses, all while working together as a team.
The producers brought together some hilarious vocal guests including Keith Urban and Gia Carides as cane toads, Jack Charles as a frill-necked lizard, Wayne Knight as a platypus, Aaron Pedersen as a dung beetle and a big name star in a blink of an eye cameo that you miss.
Irwin’s influence is strong, especially in Eric Bana’s crocodile host, but you’ll spy on some Crazy Maximus even the references and Cripps’ snappy “yeah, nah” script keeps it authentic.
The soundtrack also features Dolly Parton, The Angels, Phil Collins, Billie Eilish and The KLF with Tammy Wynette – what’s not to love?
It deserves to be a global hit and helps restore some context to the idea that everything in Australia wants to kill you.
Back to Outback screens Friday on Netflix.