The Gruffalo’s Child review

Julia Donaldson's The Gruffalo becomes a Christmas treat once more. Pete checks out the The Gruffalo's Child...

The Gruffalo's Child

Two years ago, the BBC served up an unexpected treat with its all-star adaptation of The Gruffalo, the children’s book by Julia Donaldson. Fortunately for the Beeb and viewers alike, Donaldson wrote a sequel, just as packed with charm as the first film.The Gruffalo’s Child takes place several years after the first film, and presents a take on the age-old question: What happens to the villain after he’s been outwitted by the hero? Having been fooled by the mouse in the original tale, the Gruffalo has raised his daughter in fear of the ‘Big Bad Mouse’ that lives in the forest. Of course, the Gruffalo’s child isn’t having any of it, and so sets off on her own adventure to find the stuff of nightmares…

Turning the original tale on its head somewhat, that film’s lead, James Corden, only appears briefly near the end. The bulk of the tale is given to the titular Gruffalo Jr, voiced by Shirley ‘Moaning Myrtle’ Henderson, and it’s hard not to adore the character, with her spirit of adventure, and yet also with a vulnerability that brings something new to the story; there’s one moment in particular towards the end that hits an emotional beat not dreamed of by the first tale. You can’t help but feel a bit sorry for this poor young girl as she gets pushed from pillar to post by the other animals in an attempt to get rid of her.

Of course, Rob Brydon, John Hurt and Tom Wilkinson are also back to reprise their roles as the snake the owl and the fox, and each approaches the part with the same level of enthusiasm as with the first film, even though their roles in this are essentially cameos.

The first film relied quite heavily on rhyming and repetition, and while there’s still a sense of that here it’s less noticeable than first time round; there are a few phrases that crop up time and again, but not in the same shout-along way as with the first film. This does take away a little bit of that magic (especially, I suspect, if you’re watching it with very small children), but the new plot and characters more than make up for this.

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In short, if you enjoyed the first Gruffalo film, you’ll love this one too. It’s a warm, witty, heart-filled piece of family entertainment that, once again, looks absolutely gorgeous. There’s little here that’s going to win over sceptics, but there’s something here for everyone to love – unless, that is, you’ve got your inner child trapped in a deep, dark well; in which case you may have bigger problems…

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