Netflix is an interesting studio when it comes to releasing animated films and they've definitely been a studio that's willing to take on any project possible. While sometimes it worked in their favor with the fantastic "Klaus" and even fun little films like "The Willoughby's", "Arlo the Alligator Boy", and "Over the Moon", they have missed a handful of times with films like "America: The Motion Picture", "Gnome Alone", and "Duck Duck Goose". Next on their docket is a little animated film called "Back to the Outback" and I'd say it's a decent film from them. It's certainly not anything amazing or special and doesn't do anything extraordinary, but as far as animated films go, it's a cute little film that I certainly enjoyed. I'd say it's a decent flick.
In an Australian Wildlife Park in Sydney, a bunch of dangerous creatures including an Inland taipan snake named Maddie (Isla Fisher), a funnel-web spider named Frank (Guy Pearce), a thorny-devil lizard named Zoe (Miranda Tapsell), and a tarantula named Nigel (Angus Imrie) have all gotten tired of being judged by the humans at the zoo and frustrated at doing the daily routine over and over again. One day after the friendly crocodile Jackie (Jackie Weaver) is taken away from the park after an incident, Maddie decides that she and her friends should break out of the zoo and go to the Outback. While sneaking out of the zoo, they end up running into the zoo's famous koala Pretty Boy (Tim Minchin), and are forced to take him with them after he tries to get rat them out and Nigel accidentally knocks him out by stinging him. Together, the five animals set off across Australia to get back to the wild in the outback while avoiding the zookeeper Chaz (Eric Bana) and his son Ben (Diesel La Torraca) who are set to get the animals back.
As far as animated films go, this is quite a simple one, and as that I think it works rather well. The film is from animation studio Reel FX who also made the very bad "Free Birds" and the very good "The Book of Life" and this is definitely a film that works like the latter. I'd say the film and its story work almost like an Australian spiritual successor to "Madagascar". I don't the film is nearly as good as that film, but I think it works well enough since the story is entertaining and has some fun scenes where the characters run into other Australian animals trying to get from place to place while avoiding the zookeeper and his son. It's certainly not an ambitious animated film and it doesn't really do a whole lot of things new that make it stand out, but I do think it works despite that. There's a lot of fun sequences which include the animals going on a water ride in the Sydney sewers and also a fun scene where some Tasmanian devils save the animals from the zookeeper after they were caught hitching a ride on a school bus. The film keeps a very steady pace though out and it builds to a fun climax that while does go on a bit too long still has enough enjoyable moments to keep me entertained. It's also a great way for kids to learn about Australian animals as they were plenty of them that shined and had their moments. I do think that the humor in the film is a bit all over the place with some of the moments being kind of funny like Pretty Boy being obsessed with the music of Phil Collins while others really making me roll my eyes and groan, particularly when the film decides to use some toilet humor for some moments. Still though, I don't think these jokes are enough to make the film feel unwatchable. As far as the animation goes, it's pretty good, and I was impressed. If there's one thing that I know about Reel FX, it's that their CG animation is usually always pretty good quality from the films they made in-house to even outsourcing it and this film is no exception. The characters' designs are all colorful and cute and have unique looks to them even if they do look a bit like toys. Though what really stands out in the film is the scenery which does look very good. The opening day shots of Sydney aren't great, but the night look of the city was very impressive and even areas in Australian jungles and the Outback like Uluru look particularly great with the look of red rocks and the way the light bounces off of them. There's also a great sequence later in the film where it uses chalk and pastel textures to show how Maddie got to the zoo and it really stands out. As far as the characters go, most of them are pretty good. My favorite is easily Pretty Boy who is this spoiled pampered koala who is unfamiliar with being in the outside world and not being in the public spotlight and he had a lot of hilarious moments where he had to realize he was not the center of attention like he once was. Normally I'm annoyed with characters like him, but Tim Minchin's performance really helped him work for me. The other animals were fun too with Maddie being a sweet character trying to come to grips with how humans see her and her friends like Frank, Zoe, and Nigel also had their moments. I also did like the antagonists of Chaz and Ben being like these Steve Irwin-like zookeepers trying to get the animals back though I will say a big reveal moment with Chaz really made no sense and I thought it was rather pointless to the story since it doesn't really come up again. Still though, it wasn't that bad to severely damage the story for me.
Overall, "Back to the Outback" was a decent little animated film from Netflix. The story, animation, and characters did have their flaws, but I found they worked enough that I can say that I wasn't annoyed. This isn't a big animated film that I think you should go out of your way to watch, but if you are curious and have children that want to watch it, you could certainly do worse. It's not a film to go exceptionally wild over, but it's a passable diversion and one that is a fun little watch.