Even Mice Belong in Heaven review – stop-motion voyage to animal afterlife

·1 min read

Movies aimed at very small children tend to be a bit squeamish about death. So this afterlife-for-kids animation gets points for recognising that thoughts about dying do rattle around in the four-year-old brain (along with unicorns, Hula Hoops and poo insults). The film begins with a show-offy young mouse called Whizzy being chased by timid fox Whitebelly; after a dazzling flash of headlights Whizzy and Whitebelly wake up in animal heaven. There’s a nice moment when Whizzy realises she’s dead. “That fox did get me,” she says with wonder.

The animation – like Fantastic Mr Fox and Wallace and Gromit – is old-fashioned stop-motion puppetry (with a bit of assistance from CGI). It has that same deeply pleasing homemade aesthetic, as if you could reach in and touch every tuft of scruffy fur or knobbly twig.

In heaven, traditional foes mouse and fox must put aside their earthly animosities. Up here, there is no pecking order: even big-ticket predators make friends with the food. The film’s Czech animators – it’s dubbed, somewhat unimaginatively, into English – give us some quirky, colourful characters and gorgeous detail. There’s a twinkly fairground and natural hot springs where newly deceased arrivals must wash.

What’s missing is anything resembling a storyline. Instead, some tiresome antics ensue as mouse and fox embark on a series of meaningless quests. They must complete a scary ride at the fairground and make it across a forest – learning all the usual caring-and-sharing kids-movie lessons. It’s a shame that after that killer start, this wimps out of saying anything interesting about death or the adventure on the other side.

• Even Mice Belong in Heaven is released on 1 October in cinemas.

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