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Back to the Forest

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We gave it an F

Into the woods — and out of sorts. In Back to the Forest, an irritating story of people versus animals, nastiness reigns. There’s greed. There’s revenge. And, finally, there is an uneasy — and unsatisfying — peace.

When a group of farmers intent on getting rich decides to chop down all of the trees in a nearby forest, the animals that live there try to head them off — writing letters, trying to gnaw down the bridge to the forest. Nothing works. Then they persuade the farm animals to trade places with them. When the farmland is overrun with wild forest creatures (boars, rats, bunnies), the farmers are ready to negotiate a truce.

Though the dialogue does carry the story forward, it’s clumsy, thoughtless, and grating. I stopped counting the number of times a character said, ”Shut up, you idiot!” or ”You shut up!” The animation is stiff; little care was given to faces, so no matter what characters are saying, the expressions are the same. Only the mouths (and sometimes the eyebrows) move.

The background music ranges from annoying to unnoteworthy. And the voices are oddly unsuitable for the characters — one sturdy old woman has the clear, refined voice of a Julie Andrews — and all the characters speak in an aggressive monotone like that of an impatient parent trying to get through a bedtime story.

”You can turn this off now,” said my 6-year-old, before the tape was over. F