Take this Back To The Outback Quiz to find out which character you are. We update the quiz regularly and it’s the most accurate among the other quizzes.
Parents looking for an electronic babysitter this holiday season will most likely pitch “Back to the Outback,” an Australian animated film that debuted on Netflix today, as a spin-off of “Madagascar.” Billy, do you remember those lovely flicks with the wise-cracking penguins and the hypochondriac giraffe? This is essentially the same thing. And it’s basically the same thing again. A group of animals at a sanctuary escape their keepers once more in an attempt to return to the wild, forming an unexpected family along the way.
The sanctuary in this case is in Sydney, and the destination is the Outback. Add in a “Finding Nemo”-style voyage and the timeless family film message about not judging a book by its cover, and you have a film that feels like it was crafted by a machine rather than actual people. There’s simply not enough new creative energy in this production, which is occasionally charming but also terribly programmatic. Everyone accuses Netflix of designing for the algorithm rather than for artistic purposes. These oddball animals aren’t going to help. Also, you must try to play this Back To The Outback quiz.
Back To The Outback Quiz
Maddie (Isla Fisher) is the new taipan at the Australian wildlife refuge, and she’s been thrown into something called The Danger House with the other animals that scare children into realizing that most of the natural world wants them dead. While the gorgeous koala Pretty Boy (Tim Minchin) is attracting so much attention on the property that he has an international popular webcam where people can watch him sleep, Maddie is learning a hard lesson about how looks influences what others perceive of an entire species. Denis Leary used to say that we only battled for cute animals because no one wanted to conserve cows since they can’t swim about and do cute things with their hands like otters. Maddie isn’t an otter at all.
She discovers this the hard way after expecting her trainer Chaz (Eric Bana) to show her off to the visitors, only to see him lean into snake clichés. She’s not going down without a fight, swiftly teaming together with other Danger House occupants, including a lizard (Miranda Tapsell) and a spider in heat (Guy Pearce). Pretty Boy finds himself on the journey with them as they make their way through Sydney to the Outback, hoping to remain one step ahead of Chaz and his son. Directors Clare Knight and Harry Cripps do an admirable job of instilling “Back to the Outback” with a big heart, which Fisher’s emotional performance further improves.
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The issue here is one that has arisen often in modern family entertainment, and that is how little there is underneath the repeating surface. The jokes are recycled with worrying frequency, and most of the supporting characters, with the exception of Maddie, fall flat. (Think about how well the writers of “Nemo” realized all of the characters on Marlin’s adventure and in the fish tank with Nemo.) No such luck in this case.) Chaz is a broad Steve Irwin cliché, while Pretty Boy devolves into an angry irritation as a result of being given far too much screen time.
There’s a wonderful lesson in “Back to the Outback” about not believing erroneous stereotypes about an entire species, as well as how the oppressed join together—even there’s an organization called the Ugly Secret Society—but good intentions only go so far in family entertainment. I’d like to believe that Knight, Cripps, and Netflix set out to create more than just a slimmer version of “Madagascar” to meet the demand of the giant streamer’s algorithm, but I’m not so sure.