There’s a fine line between blarney and balderdash. Actually, there isn’t. But I’m just trying to have a little pity for the folks who made “Riverdance: The Animated Adventure.”
It’s an absurd, strained and seriously unfunny animated comedy that shows what can happen when animation veterans with limited imaginations try to conjure up a myth to give a “story” to an Irish dancing stage show somebody bought the rights to.
Yes, there’s river dancing in “Riverdance,” all of it realized through motion capture animation. But if you’re just showing stiff-armed Irish folk dancing, what’s the point of the animation, anyway? There’s barely a single bit of dance in this that does things a real person couldn’t do and a real camera, not a computer animation program, couldn’t turn into film.
That’s why they needed this silly story, about a legend of prehistoric Irish Elk (Megaloceros giganteus) and The Huntsman who stalks them to steal their magic antlers and make all the rivers dry up. Only a lighthouse that never goes dark can keep that Huntsman (voiced by Brendan Gleeson) at bay.
Jayzus, Mary and Joseph that’s nonsense.
Little Keegan (voiced by Sam Hardy) hears this bit of blarney from his lightfooted lighthouse-keeper granddad (Pierce Brosnan). The kid is content to be the DJ at the upcoming St. Paddy’s Day dance, but grandpa insists on telling his tales and dancing like The Lord of the Dance is watching.
The exercise doesn’t keep his heart from giving out, though. But that leads to the first good scene and the movie’s big emotional moment — an Irish funeral. It begins with the priest exhorting the gathered, “Do not mourn the man. Celebrate the life, and celebrate it with dance!”
Mourners in black do just that, carrying umbrellas, dressed in black in the rain, Riverdancing.
Keegan’s classmate, Spanish immigrant Moya (Hannah Herman), may prefer flamenco. But she’s learning to dance as the natives do. And she’s got a way to help Keegan with his mourning. She invites him to a magical place where he meets those deer with the “magical” antlers (Lilly Singh, Jermaine Fowler) and the leader of their herd (Brosnan again). Yes, they talk, some of them with American accents.
But figuring out grandpa was telling him the truth doesn’t keep the kid, whom “we’re all counting on,” from letting the lighthouse light go out and The Huntsman from rowing ashore for a quick stalk. This is why we don’t let children operate lighthouses, kids.
There’s some fun stuff involving roly-poly sheep tumbling into a static-cling snowball, a few clever uses of the contrast between 3D CGI animation and 2D (in dream sequences).
The only “dance” bit would be hard to fake when filming real actors is a dancing-on-a-pond’s-surface scene, and even that fails to push the animation anywhere a live-action performance couldn’t go.
And the only funny and seriously Irish bit to all this is the vocal presence of Aisling Bea, of Hulu’s “This Way Up” and the recent “Home Sweet Home Alone.” She plays the sassy and sarcastically hip record store owner Margot, who’d love to “scratch” some of this diddley-aye music she sells to a town full of riverdancers.
“Nooooooobody likes the fiddle! But like broccoli and alternative jazz, y’learn t’put UP with it!”
Which is more than you can say for “Riverdance: The Animated Adventure.”
Rating: TV-G, poop and fart jokes
Cast: The voices of Pierce Brosnan, Brendan Gleeson, Aisling Bea, Sam Hardy, Hannah Herman, Lilly Singh and Jermaine Fowler
Credits: Directed by Eamonn Butler and Dave Rosenbaum, scripted by Dave Rosenbaum and Tyler Werrin.
Running time: 1:38