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DIRECTOR: Pierre Coré RELEASE DATE: May 12, 2017 RATING (US): NR
CAST: Omar Sy, Elana Dunkelman, Vincent Lacoste et al.
// review by Meow

Worthy of a sand-ing ovation?

Netflix has had an interesting progression in their services over the course of all these years, being an online video rental store and progressing to being video streaming service as well. Eventually, competitors came along, and Netflix knew they had to do something if they wanted to be the service of choice: They started producing their own shows and movies. Though I don't leap at these normally, I am a right sucker for cute things.

Sahara is a Netflix original animated film following the adventures of a snake by the name of Ajar and a scorpion, Pitt, starting off the film by filching a single watermelon from a caravan during a sandstorm. The reason being: snakes eat fruit in this film. I guess showing cutesy colorful snakes swallowing small critters and other snakes is a bit grim for a kid's film. Ajar and Pitt make it away with their booty but are quickly punched out by a big bully snake who takes the melon for himself. Sick of the torment, Ajar decides he's going to try to break into the local Oasis (apparently the upper crust home for snakes), which is guarded by large birds that keep the rich snakes in and the poor snakes, a.k.a. "dusties", out. Seeing a girl grass snake emerging from the Oasis, he immediately falls in love with her as she's carried off by a guardbird back into the thicket and decides he's going to roll around mud(?) to look like he's from the Oasis and sneaks in. But what-ho! The girl snake dips herself in... ink(?) to look like a dustie and sneak out to seek freedom. They, of course, find each other, and the guardbird pursues the both of them for a bit until they leap off a cliff into a river and get carried away, washing off their disguises. After they emerge from the river, a snake charmer snags the girl snake and whoops looks like Ajar has to go save her. Along their adventures, they encounter various things such as carnivorous glow worms, sandstorms OF DOOM!, and even the most dreaded thing of all: tourists!

The film has a rather nice and colorful art style to it, even having some minor artsy aspects with the designs on the snakes in the film. Though I'm not big on desert themes too often, they did a nice job showing various aspects like canyons in the film. A little bit into the film, there's a symbolic visual spectacle that's a treat to watch, filled with beautiful imagery. It's hard to tell if the segment is great 2D animation or fantastic cel-shaded 3D animation.

There are some weird things, though. One is that the film has random moments where it tries to be educational, like with a song about constellations and explaining how some towns are supplied with water via underground rivers. There are also random segments with rap music, like we're back in the 90s or something. There are also odd out-of-nowhere pop-culture references as well, a notable one being a snake referring to Ajar and Pitt as "Batman and Robin". In addition to snakes eating fruit, scorpion stings merely put things to sleep, and flower pollen is cocaine for snakes.

All in all, this isn't a film I'd say you should go out and get a Netflix account for, but if you happen to already have one and feel like watching something for the whole family, this isn't a bad choice. It's available in English, French, Italian, Spanish, and German for audio, and has English, French, Chinese, Spanish, and... Chinese subtitles.

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