Review: Mary And Max (2009)

An animated film that is crude, but in an interesting way!

Written By: Adam Elliot
Directed By: Adam Elliot

Mary And Max is far removed from what has come to be the norm in adult animation. In this case I’m not referring to animated efforts that appeal to both adult and children, but animated films that go after a very specific adult audience. In the crazy amount of animated films that are available  I would say strictly adult animation has been relegated to the odd short film every now and then. Films like Rango or Coraline are adult animation, but they are also able to appeal to a younger demographic. Mary And Max is adult animation that I hazard to say is strictly for adults. Teenagers may get something out of the proceedings, but if I were to sit my six year old daughter down in front of the TV for a showing of Mary And Max the result would be one bored out of her mind kid.

The closest comparison to Mary And Max in the animation field would be Family Guy. However, that comparison only runs skin deep, and with Family Guy the incredibly stupid nature of the show leaves the comparison nearly moot. The stupidity and infantile nature of Family Guy is a given, that along with its over reliance on pop culture references are why I never dug the show. However there is no denying that Family Guy is an attempt at a more strictly defined adult animated effort. Mary And Max fits into that boat, but Adam Elliot’s film manages to be unique, and completely different in tone from Family Guy, because of the emotional honesty and realism of its characters. There are fart jokes in Mary And Max, I could have done without them, and jokes about unrealistic periphery characters that are attempts at easy laughter. But, the main characters in Mary And Max are incredibly complex and very adult throughout.

The animation in Mary And Max is a unique bird as well, it is both crude and finely detailed. A lot of craftsmanship went into the animation found in Mr. Elliot’s film, but at the same time it has a crude look about it. That crude look matches the dreary and drab outlook that both Mary and Max have on life. Everything about the world that Mary Knows in Australia, and Max knows in New York, is obscene and the animation matches this. The claymation is crude and far fetched, yet it is also honest to the characters and real in a way that is impressive to behold.

I wasn’t as taken by Mary And Max as some of my film friends were. I thought the film was great, don’t get me wrong, but I also felt that there were some missteps and the middle portion of the film dragged a lot. Those grievances aside, there was plenty of ambition in Mary And Max. That along with a refreshingly adult take on mental illness and a friendship that felt very natural helped me to really like this foray into adult animation. It is crude, but Mary And Max isn’t crude for the sake of a laugh, it’s crude for the sake of a story, and that’s why Mary And Max is an example of great adult animation and better than every episode of Family Guy put together.

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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4 responses to “Review: Mary And Max (2009)

  1. I really liked this film. I heard about it when it came out, but I never got around to seeing it until a few months ago. I was glad when I finally did.

  2. If you enjoyed it then I highly suggest you check out Harvie Krumpet, the short that was the inspiration for Mary And Max.

  3. This is a really touching and heartbreaking film. I love how much emotional impact the filmmakers were able to pull out of such a basic premise. Is there a better example of the potential art has than such a simple idea told so thoughtfully. I am so happy I found this.

  4. Indeed, the simplicity of the film may be its greatest strength. There’s an honest earnestness to the simple nature of the film that isn’t easy to pull off.

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