Often mythical creatures are confined to the limits of horror or young adult adaptations. They are darkness to be vanquished rather than characters in their own right. 100% Wolf couldn’t be further from the likes of The Wolfman or Underworld. Alexs Stadermann uses the image of the werewolf to craft a cute, if cliched, tale of a teenager searching for acceptance.
Freddy Lupin (Ilai Swindells) is the young heir to a werewolf pack, but on the eve of his first transformation something goes awry and he becomes not a ferocious wolf, but a poodle. Convinced that he is cursed, Freddy sets out to recover a lost family heirloom and reluctantly accepts the help of a stray dog named Batty (Samara Weaving), despite his family’s hatred of dog-kind and similar prejudices on the other side. With her help, Freddy learns to love himself and saves his family.
It is easy to suggest that perhaps this film is a metaphor for coming out— certainly the character design of Freddie’s poodle form could be read in this way. His young cousins, under the direction of his suspect uncle, give him a makeover which involves dying his fur dark pink. Freddy’s small form stark contrast to the powerfully built—almost lion-like— wolves in his family. Furthermore, Freddy only begins to accept himself in the company of those who are similar to him, in this case, dogs. Freddy only finds his inner power when he gives up trying to be something he is not, and embraces who he is. Through this discovery he ends the rift between dogs and werewolves, and takes his place as the leader of the wolf pack. But perhaps this critical framework would weigh heavy on the brightly, coloured animated world of 100% Wolf.
The animation is brighter and more vibrant than many of it’s contemporary counterparts. On the one hand this could be because American animation has moved ‘forward’ and we now expect greater realism from animated films. The stylistic character design with the gravity defying hair cuts and overlarge facial hair is something we expect from children’s cartoons. It is off putting at times, but it serves the story and the fantastical nature of the film. It’s perfect for young children who aren’t yet versed in the conventions of animated films.
100% Wolf lopes through many of the same tropes and situations that populate modern kids films; a coming of age ritual goes wrong; a young hero discovers their inner power; the true villain is much closer to home than first expected. There is nothing inherently wrong with the handling of these tropes, and it is often said that in an era of Pixar and Studio Ghibli animators ‘must do better’. Perhaps these critics are right in that animation is a form with a huge amount of potential rather than just a kids genre filled with characters rehashing old stories. 100% Wolf may not have the majesty and care of a Pixar film, but it brings a characteristic Australian humour to a playful coming of age tale.
100% Wolf will be out in UK and Ireland cinemas from July 31st
by Mia Garfield