Director: Garth Jennings (2017) BBFC cert: PG

This giddy animated musical comedy is stuffed with silly sparkling fun and will make you grin until the top of your head falls off.

Produced by the inspired creators of the Minions Movie and The Secret Life of Pets, it’s a gloriously mad musical mashup of TV’s The X Factor and Gene Wilder comedy The Producers.

Buster is a cuddly Koala whose theatre is going to be closed by the bank unless he has a hit show. He advertises a singing competition but a typo means the winnings are far more than he can afford.

As creatures of every stripe and hue perform a dizzying number of pop, rock and soul tunes, the story squeezes in bank robberies and car chases among the first night nerves and pushy showbiz parents.

The animals are stuffed with Judy Garland’s ‘lets do the show right here’ spirit and just about keep Buster’s show on the road. Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Hudson are among those providing the pipes.


Tale Of Tales

Director: Matteo Garrone (2016)

Full of deliciously dark deeds and black comic moments, this fabulously grotesque fairytale is definitely not one for the kids.

In the grand tradition of European folk stories it’s a moral foray through a murky forest of avarice, gluttony, madness, magic and death.

With a minimal of dialogue its entwining stories are expertly twisted together by a marvellous mix of strong performances, stunning costume design, incredible locations and beautiful cinematography.

The loosely connected stories of three medieval monarchs begin with Salma Hayek’s Queen who is longing for a child.

A cloaked figure guarantees her a child but warns of a potentially lethal price. The Queen’s husband must kill a sea monster and its heart must be cooked by a virgin and then eaten by the Queen.

Dishonesty causes repercussions which pass down the years.

Meanwhile Vincent Cassel’s debauched king courts a singing maiden without having seen her face. Toby Jones is a wonderfully distracted king who organises a tournament to find a prince to marry his daughter.

Ogres, giant fleas, leeches,  jugglers, fire eaters, dwarves and a fat lady add flavour to this witches brew of story telling. A circus troupe adds a layer of theatricality and make believe to the mythic environment.

Roccascalegna castle is one of several perfectly chosen examples of Italian architecture which anchor the extraordinary events in our imagination.

None of the royal plans ends in the way they or us expect as they discover lies and self interest have severe and deserved consequences.

The final shot is a breathtakingly beautiful comment on the frailty and difficulty of life, offering a degree of compassion to those who have suffered through their own weakness.


Wreck-It Ralph

Director: Rich Moore (2013)

Smashing its way through several levels of fun, this fun-filled blast of candy coloured, sugar flavoured confection from Disney is inspired by old video games.

Genial giant Wreck-It Ralph, voiced by John C. Reilly, is the unfairly maligned bad guy of an arcade game called Fix-It Felix Jr – a lot like the 80s gaming classic Donkey Kong.

At night after shut-down the other characters socialise in their penthouse. Ralph, left all alone, starts to ponder his lot in life and goes to a support group.

He confesses that after 30 years he doesn’t want to be the bad guy any more. Ralph decides to ‘turbo’ – arcade-speak for invading another game.

So he breaks into another machine – a violent and scary shoot-’em-up called Hero’s Duty, before landing in a racing adventure called Sugar Rush.

But Ralph going missing means Fix-It Felix Jr is considered broken – putting the lives of its other inhabitants under threat. What’s more, during his hopping around between games he inadvertently lets loose a computer virus which threatens the existence of every game in the arcade.

Teaming up with tiny, racing-obsessed Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), Ralph begins a digitised adventure with a quest.

Combining the insane world of arcade games with the upside-down logic of Alice in Wonderland, the film generates slapstick fun as it powers its way through its own levels.

The animation is mind-blowingly good, with tremendous amounts of invention, but it is all a bit too sickly sweet and garish.

Also, Vanellope’s rival King Candy (Alan Tudyk) is more fun than von Schweetz or Ralph. But Glee’s Jane Lynch is on great form as the tough-talking, space marine commander.

Oscar-nominated Wreck-it Ralph was made by people who obviously have a deep love of arcade games.

They have great fun dropping in cameos with Pac Man, Sonic, Q*bert, Frogger and old favourites from Street Fighter all turning up. But there’s more than enough to enjoy even if you don’t get the references.

Like the title character, this film is a digital hard-nut with a soft centre. Bright and cheerful, it will keep you entertained all the way through to Game Over.