It’s no secret that animation is one of the most laborious and time consuming processes in film production, a hellishly painstaking past time that requires inordinate amounts of time to generate any kind of result.

It is therefore a damn shame when good animation is bogged down by clunky writing, because – and Hollywood attests to the truth of this logic time and time again – no matter how slick a movie or TV show looks, bad writing can turn off audiences far more powerfully than pretty pictures can turn them on.

And so we have Little Johnny, a glossy animated pic that looks great. Hand drawn pictures crossed with computer modeling creates a retro-inspired, colourfully modern finished product, with strong curvy lines and big-eyed characters.

Trouble is, the film’s spankin’ fresh appearance is ferociously undermined by a sloppy jalopy screenplay stuffed full of bad jokes and bereft of anything vaguely resembling a coherent storyline.

The film’s premise is that everybody has heard a “Little Johnny” joke (though the filmmakers may have over-stated their ubiquity) and now we get to meet the little shit who inspired them.

Red-haired Little Johnny lives with conservative parents in the small Victorian town of Gallangatta, and the core gag – repeated time and time and time again, as if it never got old, which it does very quickly – is that the innocent looking lad has a very foul mouth. At school, at home, on the street – he won’t quit it with the cuss words.

By and large the jokes, which appear to have been written by a group of drunk geezers, sink very quickly, greeted either by a guilty snigger or (more likely) the proverbial tumbleweed. Here’s an example of what you can expect from the dialogue: “benign is what my brother would be after he be eight.”

Ho. Ho. Ho.

Little Johnny is playing at Greater Union cinemas on Russel Street every evening until April 24.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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