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[HanCinema's Film Review] "Frankie and Friends the Movie: The Tree of Life"


The official website for Frankie and Friends describes the franchise as an "eco-friendly growing up story". In short, the television show's main operating gimmick is that the characters live in a world where food has to come from a specific place- their garden. The usual kids' show moral lessons all come from that vein, and the film version, "Frankie and Friends the Movie: The Tree of Life" is no different. It's a story about how if you wastefully throw away food, a witch will use the energy of the food's unfulfilled souls to power super beetles devoted to absorbing immortality sap from the tree of life. Magic mushrooms are involved.

I've never watched the Frankie and Friends TV show- apparently it ended back in 2012. So far as I can tell Frankie the polar bear and the three fairies/goblins he lives with are the main characters, and they often run into other dramatis personae from fairy tales in between their gardening adventures. Several of these, from Santa Claus to Pinocchio to the Monkey King to some sort of ice princess, also feature in the movie- mostly in a cameo capacity. The ice princess has a decently large role, though, for reasons you can probably guess. Hint: she has magic ice powers.

The very existence of "Frankie and Friends the Movie: The Tree of Life" is best explained in terms of markets. South Korean studios recognize the lucrative profit potential of the animated film, and are trying to expand through the use of children's television shows. This is because South Korea makes fairly decent domestic children's programming, albeit mostly in the preschooler demographic. Early grade school if I'm being generous.

Still, existing intellectual property is a big motivator. If someone has watched something at some point, it stands to reason they'll watch the same thing again. Logically speaking any fans of Frankie and Friends are probably too old to have much interest in the movie now. But no matter. The creative team behind "Frankie and Friends the Movie: The Tree of Life" clearly have passion for what they do, so I'm sure they take whatever chances they get for further work on the project.

...Yes, "passion", much as I hate to admit it. While not terrible, "Frankie and Friends the Movie: The Tree of Life" is aimed at a pretty low denominator. Within the first few minutes there are two completely different fart jokes. Occasionally there are moments of mild cleverness, like where Santa Claus manages to negotiate himself out of a fight with skeletons. Then there are jokes that amount to "Santa Claus is fat".

It is perhaps best not to overthink these matters. I can't fault people for wanting to make children laugh and like vegetables. As a simple placeholder to distract the kids momentarily, "Frankie and Friends the Movie: The Tree of Life" probably achieves its intended purpose. But in practical terms, like most of my kid's movie reviews, this one's true purpose is to be informative. Now that you know what Frankie and Friends is, you no longer need to be curious.

Review by William Schwartz

"Frankie and Friends the Movie: The Tree of Life" is directed by Park Jeong-oh and voiced by Lee So-eun, Ahn Young-mi-I, Kim Min-jeong-IV and Choi Seung-hoon.

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