Creature [1985]

To create his Oscar-winning short "Creature Comforts" (1989), director Nick Park recorded ordinary people talking, rather than professional actors reading scripts. When he animated clay figures to match those voices, the animal characters seemed to be discussing life in a zoo: a bored gorilla, an awkward young polar bear, an impatient Brazilian jaguar. The premise of using amateur voices and animals to comment on everyday situations was adapted to a series on ITV in Britain in 2003, then in America four years later. Something got lost in the translation. Creature Comforts America opens with the statement, "Across the United States, hundreds of ordinary Americans were interviewed on a variety of subjects. This is what they had to say." But the performances often sound stagey, rather than spontaneous, and the producers rely heavily on Southern and Jewish accents for comedy. In each episode, various animals talk about specific topics: going to the doctor, working animals, celebrity look-likes, etc. A pug announces her father always said she looked like Jane Fonda; two parakeets kvetch about their ailments; a female panda browbeats a low-life male. Although the time and budget constraints of television production preclude the polished animation of the original short, the English series kept its cozily befuddled tone. The American filmmakers were less fettered by constraints of taste: a dialogue between wine buffs about the "nose" of a vintage is transposed to a pair of dogs sniffing the derriere of a third. Creature Comforts America may appeal to fans of Family Guy, but the British version is far more satisfying. (Unrated, suitable for ages 12 and older: gross, toilet and risqué humor) --Charles Solomon

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