"Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart" continues the recent string of European filmmakers producing small but interesting animated films for a fraction of the cost of a U.S. production. "Cuckoo-Clock" never reaches the level of
Co-director Mathias Malzieu adapted the script from his fey novel "La Mécanique du Coeur." Jack (voiced by Orlando Seale, sounding older than the character is supposed to be) is born on the coldest day in the world in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1874. When his heart freezes, Dr. Madeline (Barbara Scaff) implants a tiny cuckoo clock to keep it beating. As he grows older, she warns him that he must never touch the hands of the clock, lose his temper or fall in love; any of those actions could fatally damage the mechanism.
As an adolescent, Jack meets Miss Acacia (Samantha Barks), a tiny, nearsighted Flamenco singer and dancer. He pursues her to Spain's Andalusia with the aid of pioneer filmmaker Georges Méliès (Stephane Cornicard), where Jack launches an awkward courtship at the Extraordinarium, a surreal amusement park.
The influence of
The storytelling, however, lags far behind the visual imagination. Malzieu's dialogue too often restates the obvious, with the characters proclaiming what the audience already knows. The English lyrics to Malzieu's unnecessary songs are burdened with stretched rhymes and trite images. (Frustrated, Jack sings, "I'm out of whack / My mind is cracked.") Too often Malzieu and co-director Stéphane Berla succumb to the temptation to move the camera needlessly in drawn-out rotations and clichéd roller-coaster rides.
"Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart" stubbornly remains less than the sum of its parts. But its rich visual imagery suggests the talented artists involved could create something exciting and truly original if they had a better script.