It’s nearly impossible to be hard on Anna and the Moods, an animated short children’s film from 2007. It’s not perfect, but it is perfectly charming. Because the title character was voiced by the musician Björk I expected a story about a young girl singer in a rock band called The Moods. Instead I was treated to a quirky, compassionate take on puberty and what The Fresh Prince would call The “Parents Just Don’t Understand” Dilemma.
Anna and the Moods tells the story of a young girl who is expected to be consistently cheerful & obedient by her family, which she does willingly until she one day wakes up transformed. No longer a sentient beam of sunshine, Anna finds herself plagued by “moodicles” (hormone-induced moods). Her image shifts from that of a precious little girl to a moody goth teen and she decides to freak her parents out instead of playing to their expectations. She smokes cigars, commits petty crimes, listens to loud music, and develops a questionable taste in boys. Disturbed, Anna’s parents subject her to psychological evaluation, where a doctor, to their horror, diagnoses her as a “teenager”. Instead of prescribing her a solution to the newfound shifts in her mood, the doctor teaches Anna how to deal with flawed parenting. The movie takes a mischievous stance on the sudden changes that come with puberty, encouraging kids to misbehave, but also warning them that their parents are going to be jerks about it.
Directed by one of Björk’s former bandmates from the alt rock group The Sugarcubes, Anna and the Moods works with some hideously cheap CGI, but uses the handicap to its advantage. The characters look like snotty versions of Margaret Keane’s “big eyes” paintings and the whole picture has a bending, warped surreality to it that fits the puberty-altered mindset of its subject well. Monty Python veteran Terry Jones narrates with a perfectly measured children’s book tone that makes the movie’s less successful elements (like an unnecessary potshot at Michael Jackson) more than forgivable. It’s not a complicated or even a good-looking film, but as a short, fun trifle with an empathetic message & a sense of mischief, it’s sincerely entertaining.