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With: (English voices) Steven Kynman, Nigel Pilkington, Nigel Lambert, Suzanna Nour, Frederick Benedict, Leopold Benedict
Written by: Michel Ocelot
Directed by: Michel Ocelot
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic material, some mild action and peril
Running Time: 99
Date: 03/19/2013
IMDB

Azur & Asmar (2009)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Lions and Faeries

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Azur & Asmar, the new film from French animator Michel Ocelot, opens with a striking image of a woman with black skin breastfeeding two babies, first one with light skin and blue eyes, and then another with dark skin and dark eyes. We later learn that she's the nanny of the first and the mother of the second, though she raises them as if they were both her sons. Like some of today's braver animators, Ocelot doesn't shy away from children's realities, mainly nudity, but once this opening sequence ends, Azur & Asmar becomes a fairly traditional, rousing adventure story, and even the most squeamish, conservative parents may apply. The nanny works for a wealthy, nasty nobleman who insists on proper lessons for his son, Azur, but couldn't give a whit for the woman who raised him. (Azur's birth mother is dead.) Asmar and Azur grow up wanting the same things and fighting over everything. After hearing a bedtime story, they each dream of flying across the sea to rescue and marry the mythical Djinn-fairy. Cruelly separated as lads, the boys are coincidentally reunited years later, just as Asmar is about to embark upon his quest for the fairy. Azur mounts an identical quest, aided by a grumbling beggar, Crapoux. The story unfolds as all good children's stories should, with lots of surprises and a happy moral at the end. For this film Ocelot made the leap to full computer animation, and the result is not entirely seamless; the close-ups on characters' faces are pretty creepy, especially given that the original French dialogue has been dubbed into English and the lips no longer match. But the filmmaker still uses plenty of long shots and landscapes that feature his traditional look and feel and movement. Some scenes are played in silhouette, just like his great 2000 film Princes and Princesses. Some prints are titled Azur & Asmar: The Princes' Quest.

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