Movie Review: A Sweet Children’s tale Comes to Animated Life — “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse”

“The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” is a simply-animated, elegiac parable about a lost child and the friends he makes among the talking wildlife who try to help him. It’s based on a best selling book by British author and illustrator Charles Mackesy, who co-wrote and co-directed the film, ensuring that his pride and joy made it to the screen with a sense of seasonal melancholy, and its hopeful heart intact.

It’s fair to say that this “Charlie Brown Christmas” length film is pretty much an instant classic.

A young lad finds himself lost in the snowy woods one winter’s day. But he lucks into encountering a helpful, philosophical Mole. It’s just that being a mole, he’s near-sighted. And having an obsession, he’s a little thrown off by the snowscapes and snow and ice covered trees.

“Cake!” Mole exults, in Tom Hollander’s voice. “Oh,” he mutters, after they’ve tromped halfway up a hill. “It’s…a tree.”

The voice casting here is key, as Jude Coward Nicoll has a touch of the old-fashioned, angelic Every English Boy about him, Oliver Twist to Christopher Robin on down the line.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Mole asks of the boy.

“Kind.”

The Mole opines that this is a good ambition, as “kindness…it sits quietly beyond all things.”

They undertake an effort to get the lost boy home, endeavoring to find and then “follow a river” until they do. They have mishaps, missteps and accidents. But along the way, they meet a mole-craving Fox (Idris Elba) who gets caught in a snare. It is the Mole who frees him.

“I am not afraid, I am not afraid,” Mole vows. And as he frees the snarling carnivore, the Mole seizes a teachable moment.

“One of our greatest freedoms is how we react to things.”

The Fox will eventually perform an act that reveals his compassion, and kindness’s way of inspiring a “pay it forward” way of thinking. And when they meet a horse, the teaching continues.

“Asking for help isn’t giving up. It’s refusing to give up.”

Yes, it’s a tad treacly and pithy enough to produce many a profundity that would fit on a t-shirt or coffee mug, for those who haven’t finished Christmas shopping. It’s aimed at children eight or nine and under, lest you get carried away.

And if there’s a better message to send a child in a sweet, half-hour long holiday film than “You are loved. You bring this world things no one else does,” I’m sure I haven’t heard it.

Rating: G

Cast: The voices of Tom Hollander, Jude Coward Nicoll, Gabriel Byre and Idris Elba

Credits: Directed by Peter Baynton and Charlie Macskesy, scripted by Jon Croker and Charlie Mackesy. A BBC film on Apple TV+ release.

Running time: :34

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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