Thursday, April 28, 2011

Let's All Buy the Farm: "Animal Farm" (1954)

Based on the novel by George Orwell, this animated film is for adults and means just as much now as it did when released in the mid 1950's.

Manor Farm is run by the often drunk Farmer Jones. The neglected farm animals revolt, thanks to the inspiring words of an old hog, who dies and becomes a sudden martyr. The remaining animals adopt some simple rules, and get along swimmingly.

Eventually, the animal utopia begins to crumble. The remaining pigs, led by the tyrannical Napoleon, begin taking advantage of the others' hard work. They dispatch enemies as needed, but still have enough power to rally the troops to fight off a violent invasion by Jones and his drinking buddies. As the pigs begin trading with a shady businessman from the outside world, the animals finally come to their senses and do what they should have done long ago.

Finally, an animated film for adults that actually challenges the viewer to think. No Disney-like cute factor, no songs by aging white British rockers, this is a fascinating film. Orwell's book was written as a lambast against communism, fascism, and dictatorships in general, yet many of the pigs' selfish actions could be applied to modern government today.

In the United States, we get upset at every mention of pork barrel (ironic) spending, yet we send our representatives back year after year because it is always some other state or district's politician who is causing the trouble. "Animal Farm" illustrates in simple, yet not dumbed down terms, the way power corrupts, especially by those whose motives seem so sincere to begin with.

If anything, this film should empower you. This should not lead you to violent revolt against your congressperson or representative, but it should force you to ask questions about where that income and sales tax goes. "Animal Farm" is important, entertaining, and thought provoking.

I would match this up against anything Disney has released in the past fifty years. Yes, their audience goals are different, but as adults, it is nice to have something besides anime aimed at our heads. Great film. (* * * * *) out of five stars.