Netflix UK review: Robin Robin
James R | On 24, Nov 2021
From Wallace and Gromit to Chicken Run, Aardman may – understandably – not have the speed of Pixar, but the stop-motion studio has a hit rate to match, serving up family-friendly charm and silliness in handmade bundles of joy. While its modern classics are staples of festive TV schedules, though, Aardman hasn’t produced many Christmas outings, with 2011’s computer-animated Arthur Christmas a notable exception, albeit one that relied on pixels rather than plasticine.
But for 2021, Aardman is delivering two Christmas presents – Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas for BBC One and Robin Robin for Netflix. Robin Robin is the first to land, and it’s an adorable flight.
Directed by Dan Ojari and Mikey Please, the 30-minute tale follows Robin (Bronte Carmichael), who falls out of her nest when she’s just a baby in an egg, and ends up being taken in by a family of mice. Raised as one of their own, she grows up trying to fit in, but the older she gets, the more obvious it is that she doesn’t belong.
If that sounds like big, heavy viewing, you’re barking up the wrong trousers: Robin Robin plays everything with the decidedly diminutive scale of its hero, immersing us in her beautifully crafted woodland world. We join Robin as she joins the mice family on a heist, infiltrating a nearby house to steal whatever crumbs they can get without being detected. Robin’s determination to prove her worth and steal a whole sandwich, rather than a small bit of bread, inevitably sets her up for things to awry. Soon, she’s gone from a playful snowball fight to tangling with a cat, before finding refuge with a magpie who is obsessed with trying to get his hands on one of those “magic” stars that humans put on top of their Christmas tress.
The result isn’t quite Julia Donaldson, but it’s utterly endearing in its message of being yourself and being accepted by those who love you. Aardman’s attention to detail as it richly rewarding as ever, from the bric-a-brac items stuffed into the corners of each composition to the mousy ears that Robin fashions to make herself feel one of the family. The songs, too, from The Bookshop Band, are wonderfully witty. (“The rules of the sneak are simple and thus,” they sing. “Follow them close, you can steal a crust…”)
The voice cast, meanwhile, bring all this to life with colourful, amusing work, whether it’s Adeel Akhtar’s welcoming, affectionate daddy mouse or Richard E Grant turning it up to 11 as the eccentric magpie, who gets a catchy number that recalls By Our Guest – or, perhaps more pertinently, The Simpsons’ parody of it, See My Vest. The show is stolen by Gillian Anderson who is so silkily menacing as the villainous feline of the piece that younger viewers may well be scared by her appearances. But this is a winningly accessible and charmingly simple outing, which has all the fuzzy warmth of the felt so lovingly adjusted, one frame at a time.
Robin Robin is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.