To Infinity and Infinity
Beyond Beyond (Resan till Fjäderkungens Rike) (2014): 5 out of 10: A young rabbit searches for his mother in an attempt to reunite his family after she is taken by the Feather King.
The Good: First, this is a beautifully animated film. Especially for one that is going on ten years old. I watched the animated dub and some of the voice work, particularly Patrick Warburton as the Feather King, and Emily Deschanel as a frog ship captain, were excellent.
The Bad: I am not into trigger warnings, but the mother bunny starts coughing a lot a few minutes in. Yup, we are very much in Pixar’s Up territory here. Alas, just not as well done.
Quick aside. As my wife Sherrie was dying of incurable ovarian cancer, we tried to pick films that would get her mind off of it. Sherrie liked light hearted Bollywood musicals, and I found one streaming called Love Mocktail that seemed to fit the bill to a T. The movie is 147 minutes long and for the first two hours it is exactly the light musical comedy one would expect. What one wouldn’t expect is that after two hours, the female love interest now wife develops ovarian cancer, undergoes chemotherapy and dies. Yeah.
As I also lost my mother to cancer at the tender age of nine, so films where the mother dies and the son and father are let to fend for themselves are not always my cup of tea. Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes I really like them. The Bruce Willis vehicle The Kid gets my waterworks going on every viewing and is one of my favorite movies.
On one level, what Beyond Beyond does is somewhat clever. Parents will immediately know what happened to the coughing mother bunny while the film is ambiguous enough (She is literally snatched by a giant bird) that kids may not pick up right away on the subtleness. This parallels the understanding of the father bunny character and the child bunny character in the film.
Or it would have had the father not immediately whisked the boy away from his home to hide out on a boat on the ocean because The Feather King was coming for them as well. (The Feather King is allergic to water. That is why they are on a boat. But he does fly, so perhaps a carrot shaped submarine would have been wiser.) These actions plus the father’s refusal to explain death to his son makes the boy’s actions less grief fueled imagination and more a perfectly reasonable response to the surrounding adults.
Speaking of perfectly reasonable. There is a sea dog named Bill (One of a handful on non-rabbit characters running this version of heaven (or perhaps limbo? purgatory?) including The Frog Captain (Charon), The Feather King (Death), and a Lovecraftian Cthulhu tentacled monster named Mora (God))
Bill is the caretaker and general contractor for the place. He is not dead himself, going back and forth through a literal stairway from heaven. (Or Jacob’s Ladder to be more exact). Bill has no time for the rabbits in heaven (One of whom rudely and inaccurately calls him the janitor). He thinks they mindlessly follow the rules of their tentacled god and refuse to have any fun. (A complaint I have had during the Church of Dagon’s annual orgy and human sacrifice in Providence.)
And here the story runs into another snag. Bill is supposed to represent some sort of disturbing force or runaway id. He is portrayed as being incredibly self-centered. And yet Bill is completely right. The rabbits are all incredibly boring, leading meaningless lives (deaths?), and they are mindlessly following the rules of a higher power who has not exactly made his tentacled case.
So between a father acting as if the Feather King is not a harbinger of death but rather a creature one can escape from, and the Seadog Bill, who can break all the rules, thinking the rules should not apply. It is not only children who are apt to be confused.
The Ugly: The poster for the American version of this film is both ugly and really horrifying misleading. First, it gives no hint that you are in store for some beautiful animation (The poster looks like something for a 90s film about an all animal clown college). It also gives no hint you are about to watch a Scandinavian mediation on the afterlife. Think of the everyone smiling on the poster of My Sister’s Keeper (A film about harvesting organs from children) or even more on point The Secret of NIMH with its animated smiling mice family. (The secret turns out to be vivisection and genetic testing by the titular National Institute of Mental Health).
Also, our rabbits are apparently master level free divers. Think Shelley Winters in The Poseidon Adventure. While some rabbits do occasionally swim when to avoid predators, I feel a little like Mike Nelson watching Pumaman. “You know, I hate to be picky, but pumas aren’t really known for flying.”
In Conclusion: Beyond Beyond is a beautiful animated film with excellent voice acting. The story, however, doesn’t really add up, particularly for such a sensitive subject. Add in some really terrible songs, some physical anomalies (apparently juvenile rabbits can hold their breath for a very long time and are super strong), and that one of the voice actors has changed his (it’s?) name to Evantubehd after I am assuming his YouTube channel? (Are there any now unemployed actors named Chrismyspace or Carolfriendster?). I am giving Beyond Beyond a skip recommendation.