Azur and Asmar: The Princes Quest. Rating: ***and 1/5
I saw images from this French produced film a while ago and missed my chance to see it in theatres, so I recently Netflixed it. The promotional stills looked fabulous- gorgeous patterns and intricate color schemes adorn this Middle Eastern Fairy Tale. The colors and backgrounds in this movie are amazing. But, when I actually started watching the film I cringed for the first 15 minutes. The movie is computer animated and the figure animation is very stiff and looks like a video game. I immediately debated turning it off, but opted to start working on a project and multitask while half-listening to the story.
However, I'm really glad I started paying attention again because though it took me a while to get around the cardboardness of the characters, their voices (Arabic is such a beautiful language) and the story became very engaging.
The tale begins with a wealthy European boy Azur, being raised by an Arabic born Nanny. The nanny has a son, Asmar, and the two little boys grow immersed in two cultures- English and Arabic. (In the English dub the boy is clearly British, but I imagine it's French in the original film) The Nanny is a natural storyteller and feeds the boys tales of a quest saving a magical and beautiful "Djin Fairy." These stories captivate the boys, and both fight and quibble with each other, vowing to one day out wit the other and succeed in the quest.
Many years later, long after the Nanny is brutally swept aside and banished back to her native land, Azur's travels "far across the sea," to visit the land of his beloved caregiver and try his hand at the quest. Once he arrives, he finds that not only is he not alone in his efforts, but prejudices and superstitions stand in his way. (His blue eyes are deemed bad luck so the boy travels the countryside pretending to be blind.)
Based on a variety of Middle Eastern Fairy tales, this movie is a beautiful and simple morality tale about celebrating different cultures and the importance of sharing a worldly heritage and just plain gettin' along! (So much so that entitles state, "This film was made in Paris by filmmakers from all over the world, and we all got along!!," followed by a list of all the different nationalities of the artists.)
If you can get past the bad mouth syncing and not so graceful movements of the characters, the backgrounds, voices, story and visuals hopefully will draw you in.