‘Kirikou and the Men and Women’: Old-School French Animated Film

The titular African boy saves the day five times over in “Kirikou and the Men and Women,” the broad-minded but pretty vanilla third film in the French toon series from Gallic helmer Michel Ocelot.

Like the second installment, “Kirikou and the Wild Beasts,” this old-school-looking animated pic consists of several unconnected vignettes set during the same period as “Kirikou and the Sorceress,” the feature that launched the franchise. Though not as big a smash as its predecessors, “Men” did solid theatrical biz in Francophone territories and will be confined to fests and home-viewing formats elsewhere.

Originally envisioned as a series of standalone shorts for TV, the film brings together five unrelated 15-minute tales that are told to the audience by Kirikou’s grandfather (voiced by Emmanuel de Kset Gomes), who briefly appears before each episode. Ocelot worked with different femme authors for the stories, including, for the first three tales, Benedicte Galup, who co-directed “Wild Beasts.”

Kirikou (Romann Berrux) is, of course, the agile, impertinent and entirely naked African boy whose childlike naivete usually works in his favor. The tiny Kirikou looks like a newborn, though he talks and walks and specializes in finding solutions to the myriad problems his rural community faces. (The village of simple mud-and-straw huts seems tucked away in a mythical version of Western Africa; most of the voice actors have Senegalese backgrounds and accents.)

In the first story, a strong-willed woman (Sabine Bekika Pakora) comes to stay with Kirikou and his loving mother (Jessica Tougloh) after the roof of her hut is burned by the robot-like servants (voiced by Jean Landruphe Diby) of the evil sorceress Karaba (Awa Sene Sarr). This segment most closely ties in with “Sorceress” and serves as a welcome reminder, or explanation for the uninitiated, of Kirikou’s world.

The next yarn, about a cranky old man who has to hide from a jackal in a tree, most closely parallels “Wild Beasts” in that an animal plays an important role, although throughout, as the film’s title indicates, the film is mainly concerned with Kirikou’s interactions with other humans. This second mini-narrative strikes a neat balance between a grouchy codger and the bouncy young kid who might help him out.

Read More: variety.com
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