100% Wolf (PG)
In the children's book by Jayne Lyons, and now in the new animated family film of the same name, young Freddy Lupin is a boy on the verge of teen-dom who discovers that the body can change in strange ways, and probably not the ways you might expect.
Freddy is the heir to a dynasty of werewolves, and despite his life-long dreams of leading his family in canine full-moon shenanigans, his first 'transwolfation' turns him not into a proud wolf but into a cute yappy toy poodle.
This new Aussie animated family film would have been playing at cinema near you during the upcoming school holidays, but as families crowding back into cinemas remains an as-yet untested post-COVID experiment, its distributors have opted for a wide digital release instead.
That means 100% Wolf launches this weekend on Foxtel, Fetch, Apple, Google Play as well as the Playstation and Xbox stores, just in time for the upcoming long weekend (or weekends plural if you're lucky enough to live in Canberra).
It'll be an interesting experiment to see how many eyeballs are watching, and how that is reported against what was once called the "box office". Films getting a digital release aren't a new thing, but the cinema industry is going to have to change with the times, just like the rest of us.
As 100% Wolf begins, a young Freddy Lupin (voiced by IIia Swindells) is out far too late, running around his city on the trail of his extended family. It is a full moon, and that means the family are in fact a pack of werewolves. This being a family film, these are "care-wolves". Instead of causing mayhem and violence, Freddy's dad Flasheart (Jai Courtney), Uncle Hotspur (Rupert Degas) and pack use their powers during the full moon to do good, rescuing a baby and saving folk from a burning building.
Freddy will not have his transformation until he comes of age, when he is destined to lead the pack, but he meets the first of many obstacles to his ascension when dad plunges off a cliff saving human Foxwell Cripp (Rhys Darby), who has accidentally stumbled across the wolf and his human son.
There is a lot to like about this film, with plenty of scatological humour and sight-gags targeted to younger family members.
Years later, on the day of his first change, nothing goes right for the orphaned Freddy as his exposure to the full moon turns him into a cute little poodle instead of a vicious wolf, and to add insult to injury, his mean cousins give the poodle a pink dye job.
All of this is great news to his uncle, who boots Freddy from the pack, and poodle-Freddy finds himself on the mean streets, befriended by homeless dog Batty (Samara Weaving). Under Batty's tutelage, Freddy learns canine ways and together they battle Foxwell Cripp, now a crazed werewolf hunter, and a nefarious dog pound boss (Jane Lynch) as Freddy tries to earn his place back in the pack.
There is a lot to like about this film, with plenty of scatological humour and sight-gags targeted to younger family members. The screenplay skews younger than the book's target audience, giving it whole-of-family appeal, particularly if your family loves dogs.
I have a doberman who thinks the television is a window, and kept barking at the 'dogs outside' and running behind the TV to see where they'd gone. Which is adorable, even if it made reviewing this film harder work for me. There's a doberman in this film too. Dobermans get a bad rap. Mine wouldn't hurt a fly, but once again here the doberman is the bad-guy of the dog world.
Identity is the recurrent theme of this film - how we see our selves and how how we look outside doesn't always match up with what's on the inside. All great teaching moments for the kids
There is great voice work here by a bunch of familiar folk. Jai Courtney's gruff timbre works well for a werewolf dad, and Magda Szubanski is in there along with Samara Weaving voicing the winsome gal pal Batty.
The Aussie accent is a funny thing to hear up on screen, at least for people my age. When I was in the demographic this film is targeted at, most children's programming came from Britain and the United States. It is wonderful hearing that accent on good locally-produced television and film programming, and the folk behind 100% Wolf are responsible for a bunch of that, including producing Maya the Bee and the recent Blinky Bill movie.
Their animation work is exceptional, much better than some bigger-budgeted family films filling screens during recent school holidays, and kudos to their Sydney-based team who have already spun-off a 100% Wolf television series with a handful of big sales internationally.
- 100% Wolf is available from 29 May on Foxtel, Fetch, Apple, Google Play as well as the Playstation and Xbox stores.