Samson is one of the Netflix news for May 2022. Directed by Mark AZ Dippé and produced by StoryBerry And Legacy Classicsthis new animated film is based on Marmadukecartoon by Brad Anderson. The well-known bungler dog returns in a whole new misadventure, 12 years after the last film adaptation, theeponymous live action directed by Tom Dey for the 20th Century Fox (purchased Sansone (2010) in Blu-ray version on Amazon). Has this funny, ageless comedy managed to give something more than its predecessor?
Samson: an ultralight comedy
The story, written by Byron Kavanaghbegins with a party in the garden of the Winslow family. The dog is at home, in detention: everyone knows his nature. Following a disastrous accident, the family decides to entrust him to a professional educator: Guy Hilton. An almost impossible challenge for both; the target? Become a Sample and compete in a dog show.
The incident of Samson
Samson looks like the classic family comedywith a simple and linear plot, following the usual direction of fabula: an initial situation, the upheaval of it, the unfolding of the vicissitudes, the Spannung, that is the moment of maximum tension, and finally the conclusion with a happy ending. Without any artificial structure, therefore, Dippé’s film turns out to be the most basic and essential one can expect. There are no particular twists and the narration proceeds smoothly, without great highlights. A story without any pretense other than to delight the public. On the other hand, it is about an ageless film: literally, Netflix recommends it from zero years up. There is therefore no need to create something more complex.
A faded comedy
Within the narrative, some sequences are perhaps a bit predictable, the offspring of comic gags typical of this genre. It can be said that the true focus of Samson are mostly the positive message and the moral addressed to the public: self-confidence, the ability to change if you want. The comic character, on the other hand, is not entirely in focus, except for some hilarious scene in which tragicomedy is exploited. Again, a quote from the saga of Star Wars which, in the context, is so funny. The few moments that really arouse laughter are therefore surrounded by a tenor that tends to be less funny, while not losing an underlying “sympathy”, typical not only of family comedy but also of films with characters from the animal kingdom.
A modern story… but not too much
Dippé’s film is by contemporary setting. Smartphones, social media, videos that go viral: these are all elements that immediately clarify the setting in the current years. A story like that of Marmadukea comic born in the 1950s, was affected by strong changes over time. It has undergone, from time to time, a modernization until the new millennium. The film adaptations are also children of this gradual update.
Samson and Scooby in comparison
We notice an operation that the public has already witnessed in 2020. This animated version, in fact, is very reminiscent Scooby! from Tony Cervone, the first 3D product in the very long mystery saga. Even in that case, there was the need to adapt the protagonists to a whole new and ultramodern world. For example, the reference to the world of technology and social networks was constant. Moreover, the similarity between the two dogs, Samson and Scooby, it is all too evident, so much so that a real quote is made of them. While Cervone’s experiment was fully successful in its intent, Dippé’s is dealing with a particular question. Kavanagh’s script is anchored to a film and television trend very popular in the 90s but especially in the early 2000s.
Samson and his companion King Tut
The narrative pretext, while trying to insert strongly contemporary elements, is as if trapped in that long series of comedies with talking animals – especially dogs and cats – which, in fact, has a humor all its own. In short, a film like Samson it seems to belong to a cinematographic tradition far removed from our days. Incidentally, even the soundtrack is very early ’00s. It is not clear, at this point, if there is actually the intention to create something very modern; it is more likely that today’s setting was a default choice. The fact is that the two contrasting aspects coexist and, in some way, clash.
The aesthetics of Samson leaves some perplexity
Another aspect that distances this work from its release year is undoubtedly the style. Samson it is made almost entirely in CGI from the StoryBerry studio, except for the opening and closing credits in 2D, a clear homage to Anderson’s comic. The studio owns a modest animation portfolio, running since 2006 with The Reef until 2017 with Spark And The Nut Job2.
Certainly a sort of distinctive feature, what is immediately striking is the character design. All the characters have a strong caricature, almost grotesque aspect. Women have accentuated hips, men have very long and thin legs, noses are pronounced and angular. These are the most common examples. These guidelines then give space to the creation of figures who manage to differentiate themselves from the others thanks to theaccentuation of a physical detail. The result is that of an extravagant cast, which may or may not be liked.
The Winslow parents
Their animation often lacks little fluidity, as if to highlight its angular character. Occasionally, two-dimensional effects are combined with computer graphics, such as tears or mouth watering, a rather sporadic mix of styles, which does not spoil the vision but one wonders the reason behind this particular choice. Now comes the real sore point: the background. Whether the grotesque characters can pique the curiosity or not, the settings take the viewer back in time. Several times the exteriors show graphics vaguely reminiscent of console video games of a few decades ago.
A bitter morsel to digest, in an animated landscape in which giant strides are now being made towards the creation of realistic elements. Once again, Dippé’s film reveals itself a controversial project: There is probably no real attempt to match or surpass today’s products, but comparison is inevitable and the gap in aesthetic quality is all too obvious. Samson it confirms itself as a work out of its own time.
This Netflix novelty is truly an unassuming work, yet something makes people argue. If on the one hand we are faced with a nice moviealbeit with few but powerful elements of strong hilarity, on the other hand the style – graphic but also narrative – proves disorienting for an animated film of 2022. Samson it still remains tied to one tradition now outdated. As often happens, some works belong to a very specific time, and proposing them in a specific context or period risks not fully convincing. A modest film that does not stand out in the animation landscape because maybe he doesn’t want to do itbut which, at the same time, leaves room for some important perplexities.