May 23, 2024

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Chebi: My Fluffy Friend (2023) – Chebi: My Fluffy Friend (2023) – User Reviews

5 min read
“Cheburashka” has collected more than 3 billion rubles in just its first ten days, who make the film the highest grossing film in Russia.

Of course, Cheburashka simply has no competitors in Russian cinemas today. In general, to be honest, I did not plan to go to the cinema for Cheburashka. But it turned out that on New Year’s holidays this year there is nothing more to go.

The Soviet annimation films about Crocodile Gena, Cheburashka and Shapoklyak, of course, I remember very well. I think that it is nostalgia that drives many people to the film: after all, this is a beloved and already familiar character, and Soviet animation came out half a century ago – it’s time to look at them in a new way. In the Soviet short film “Crocodile Gena” by Roman Kachanov, Cheburashka is found in a box of oranges (there is absolutely no point in referring to the original by Eduard Uspensky in the case of modern Cheburashka). Then the audience learned that he came to the USSR from some kind of tropical forest. At the beginning of 2023, they decided to show us what kind of orange plantations they are.

The viewer meets Cheburashka among the trees and evil male workers, who are pissed off by the thief of oranges. They shout at Cheburashka in some incomprehensible language. As we will understand much later, it was Spanish. Suddenly, a tornado begins in this Spanish-speaking place, which takes Cheburashka to Russia, unfamiliar to the audience. We find ourselves in some seaside town (maybe Sochi), where the houses are built in the Soviet Art Deco style, and palm trees grow on the streets. A tornado brings down a real downpour of oranges on the town, and along with the fruits, Cheburashka also falls to the ground.

It seems like this is the beginning of the plot: a story about a “hit”, who is mastering a new area for himself. He accidentally meets the gloomy janitor Petrovich (of course, his name is Gennady – the crocodile in this story has a human face). At this time, Rimma also arrives in the town – an adult woman who wears unusual headdresses and runs a business – a chocolate factory. Judging by her behavior, her management methods were formed somewhere in the 90s. From there, the unbearable character of the modern old woman Shapoklyak.

This entire exposition lasts about thirty minutes – to be honest, it is very long even for adults who timidly laughed at a few gags at the beginning. Children’s enthusiasm from the indistinctly mumbling Cheburashka was also not heard in the hall. But during the entire two hours of this story, you can perfectly hear how the hero of Sergei Garmash, Gena, growls. Let me remind you that the crocodile in the Soviet cartoon did not growl at all, but this one is just annoying.

The filmmakers suggest that we fall in love with the gloomy and annoying old man Gena, whom Garmash plays half-heartedly, and the rather crookedly drawn CGI Cheburashka. I would be glad to know that someone really managed to immerse themselves in the chemistry of this duo. But in the end, it turns out to be more interesting to watch the family of Gennady Petrovich: his daughter makes her own chocolates and is very offended by her father. Her small business is threatened by the appearance of Shapoklyak with her factory. Rimma’s faithful servant – let’s call him Lariska out of habit – is trying to spoil the local business, recalls the boss’s anecdote: “Small business is constantly stormy, that’s why we are big” and is trying to buy out a candy store and take possession of the recipe. Such a battle.

In Russia of 2023, this is unimaginable: they are striving for a policy of peaceful coexistence. And, of course, there is no politics in Cheburashka. If you remember, in the Soviet animated film, the little eared and his senior mentor wanted to join the pioneers. In the modern interpretation, the heroes just want to be left behind.

I don’t know if this is part of the problem: it was easy for me to associate myself with Cheburashka, who found an older friend, taught people and animals around to be friends, and he himself strove to grow up and even decided to go to school. The modern Cheburashka not only does not look very nice, but also does not know who he is – he himself comes up with the name Cheburashka at the end of the film. Cheburashka will learn to speak only by the middle of the film, but even then only in order to make awkward jokes about urine a couple of times (and it doesn’t matter at all that these jokes periodically refer to Soviet classics). In the Soviet film, we found ourselves in reality, where there is a talking Cheburashka, there is an understandable world around. The modern Cheburashka ended up in an expensive Soviet sanatorium – it turns out that he went on vacation “to the south”, where, of course, he meets Gena and his family.

Of course, there are pluses in this film – the filmmakers should have spent 850 million rubles (about 12 million dollars) on something good. For example, the costumes and sets look great: they are really very beautiful and well thought out. The social layer of the characters’ relationship – the conflict between father and daughter and the grater of business – is also very clear to the viewer. Separately, I note how cool Cheburashka works with female characters: not only was Gennady’s wife a professional tough athlete, but also the business conflict is built around two strong women – the local Shapoklyak and Gena’s daughter. In one of the scenes, the creators were not even afraid to gently and amusingly ridicule the feminists: “It turns out that we are Three musketeers and two female musketeers!”. Nobody got offended. But all the advantages of the film are broken by the fact that the story of Gena and Cheburashka is not built on chemistry between the characters and not on a new reading of a familiar story, but on the fact that the viewer should feel nostalgia. But it was hard for me to just believe in Cheburashka: I could not even imagine that in such a bright, contrasting and unnatural world, a painted eared ear can stand out. And when I managed to accept the rules of this game for a second, the music began to play in the frame – so loud and inappropriate that it rather spoiled all the cute moments. This is especially felt in the climactic scene, in which for some reason Sevara’s “I’m Not There” plays. Parallel, but at the same time deadly straightforward editing, to the music, apparently found by searching for a “tragic and sad song” in a search engine, is just bad direction.

In short, if you suddenly find yourself watching Cheburashka, try to enjoy at least something in this film. And if you find yourself in a movie with children, find out why they liked this eared so much. It is unlikely that this hero will teach them something, but the answer “he is cute” will be enough. And when you come home again, revisit the Soviet classics – this is the case when it really was better before.


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