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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Robin Robin, review: a warm, fuzzy Christmas tale that unexpectedly evokes Thatcher

It can be hard for actors to let go of a character. That’s the only possible explanation for Gillian Anderson’s performance in Robin Robin (Netflix), an animated Christmas adventure from the people at Aardman. Because in this sweet little fable, aimed at young children, she plays a cat with the unmistakable voice she gave to Margaret Thatcher in The Crown.

Kids will be none the wiser. But as an adult, you watch this evil, saucer-eyed cat terrorising a little bird and think: is this what it was like for poor Geoffrey Howe?

Perhaps this is now Anderson’s default voice for super-villains. The other voices here are, thankfully, less forbidding. Adeel Akhtar is a delight as the father of a mouse family that adopts a newly-hatched robin, fallen from a nest. The robin (child actress Bronte Carmichael) grows up believing herself to be a mouse, and later befriends an eccentric magpie played by Richard E Grant.

It only lasts half an hour, and the story is slight. This is not in the league of Aardman’s greatest hits, A Grand Day Out or Chicken Run, but it’s warm and fuzzy – quite literally fuzzy, with the stop-motion creatures made of felt and bringing back old memories of Fingerbobs.

The whole thing is gentle and charmingly old-fashioned. Netflix has some wonderful programmes for younger viewers but also plenty of tat, with knowing jokes aimed way over children’s heads. This is entirely wholesome family fare.

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