Though appearing to be influenced by such animated works as “Coraline” and “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends,” “Ana y Bruno,” director Carlos Carrera’s first animated feature film, fails to achieve half of what made those two animated projects so good in the first place.
The movie opens with little girl named Ana arriving with her mom at a mental institution. Anna’s mom is deeply troubled and is in need of psychiatric therapy. Keeping up with movie cliché tradition, the asylum looks like Addams Family manor, and is run by a sinister looking doctor. One night, while snooping around, Ana runs into a hyperactive goblin-like creature named Bruno. It turns out that Bruno is a figment of a schizophrenic patient who sees “little green man,” and introduces the girl to an entire cast of colorful imaginary characters living in the asylum. We get a pink elephant that’s insanely jealous, a small blue drunk man, an obsessive-compulsive robot, a trio of hooded women who laugh all the time, and many other weird characters.
As a child with a widely active “imagination,” Ana is one of the few people who can see the creatures. Learning that her mother has a particularly dangerous imaginary creature of her own, Ana must figure out a way to escape the asylum with her mother and new friends, all the while dealing with the wickedly cruel asylum staff and other horrors that plague the institution
Despite telling a surprisingly mature and heartfelt story that deals with mental illness, the rest of the film falters in almost every way. The animation is akin to “Norm of the North” in terms of quality, and though it’s obvious the animators tried to make up for it with the character designs, most of the animation is just unpleasant to look at. Oddly enough, more disturbing than the bizarre imaginary creature were the cast of grotesque looking human characters, though Ana and her parents were spared an unpleasant design. Even the character movements were awkward, with many of the creatures, including Bruno, moving at a faster speed than the human characters.
The film also immediately fails when establishing rules around what the imaginary creatures can and cannot do. The degree to which the creatures can influence the real world changes from scene to scene, and only emphasizes the laziness of the writing. In one moment the little monsters can teleport and walk through walls, but these abilities are seemingly forgotten minutes later
Another problem the film suffers from is it’s large cast. Though it would be fine if Ana would be joined by a few friends on her journey, she is instead followed by over 20 comic relief characters for the entirety of the film. Most of them contribute nothing to the overall narrative and are simply their for running-jokes or the occasional sight gag. To make matters worst, most of the film’s humor falls flat, making the presence of Anna’s pack of friends all the more annoying.
The film also makes the mistake of not knowing what audience it’s trying to serve. Though its sense of humor is obviously geared towards children, the film’s disturbingly dark tone and subject matter (mental illness, lobotomies, medical malpractice, etc.) just feel out of place. What’s even more awkward is the film’s depiction of people struggling with mental illness. Many of them eerily resembled the offensive caricatures of handicapped people often seen in “South Park.”
Aside from an imaginative end credit sequence and the occasionally entertaining side character (a blind carjacker that Ana later befriends being one of my favorites), there’s not a lot to appreciate about this animated feature.
“Ana and Bruno” is far from being a good film, but the general concept is interesting enough that it might be worth remaking with a better creative team at the forefront in the future. The film’s unique commentary on mental illness is inspired and deserving of praise to an extent. It’s just a shame that Mexico’s first stereoscopic 3D film fails to deliver something that is truly worth watching in the theatre.