There is nothing particularly original about “100% Wolf,” the animated coming-of-age story now playing in Cineplex theatres, but what it lacks in new ideas it makes up for in gimmicks and screwball action.
In this werewolf story for kids, based on the book by Jayne Lyons, lycanthropy isn’t a curse. Sure, they have claws and great big teeth and are still misunderstood by humans but instead of mauling people their purpose in life is to help folks in need. “The best wolves don’t have the sharpest claws or the pointiest teeth. They have the biggest hearts.”
“An American Werewolf in London” this ain’t. In fact, it’s more “Lion King” than anything else.
At the center of the story is Freddy Lupin (voiced by Jerra Wright-Smith as a child and later by Ilai Swindells), a ten-year-old from a long line of powerful werewolves. When Freddy’s father (Jai Courtney) and pack Alpha is killed during a selfless act of heroism, the youngster not only loses his dad but also the pack’s sacred Moon Stone ring. In the midst of the turmoil Freddy’s evil uncle, Uncle Scar…. Er, ahhh, I mean, Lord Hightail (Michael Bourchier), takes over, assuming control of the pack (sound familiar?). When Freddy is old enough he will be king of the werewolves but first he must be initiated.
That’s where the real problems start.
On the night of his coming-of-age Freddy isn’t graced with fearsome fur and elongated claws. Instead he’s turned into the sworn enemy of the werewolves, a dog. A delightful poodle with a shock of pink hair and wide eyes to be exact. “I’m a fluffy, pink joke,” he says.
“You bring shame on the memory of your father.,” snarls Lord Hightail. “You have until moon rise tomorrow to prove you are a real wolf. Otherwise the moon spirits will choose a new High Howler and you will be banished.”
With the help of a scruffy stray called the Great Houndini (Samara Weaving) Freddy goes on a madcap mission that sees them sent to a canine beauty parlour before making a stop at the dog pound. On top of that they must deal with Foxwell Cripp (Rhys Darby), an ice-cream truck scooper who brings the slapstick and some wild-and-crazy ideas. Will Freddy make it back in time to prove he’s wolf worthy? I think you probably already know the answer.
Throwing the best bits from “The Lion King,” “How to Train Your Dragon,” “The Secret Lives of Pets” and a handful of others into a blender and hitting puree shouldn’t work, but “100% Wolf” pulls it off, modestly. Good messages about accepting everyone for who they are adorn a story with lots of eye-catching action—even if the animation isn’t as slick as the movies that inspired it—fun, kid-friendly characters and jokes that should make children giggle. Parents may not be as engaged, although a doberman who seems to be channeling Werner Herzog is a hoot.
“100% Wolf” isn’t destined to become a classic like the movies that inspired it, but as an agreeable time waster for kids who miss going to the theatre, it’s a howl.