JustTru’s review published on Letterboxd:
The film certainly embodies a children's book very well, with pretty pictures, cute characters, simple conflicts. It's not too memorable or dense, but it doesn't have to be. Just a short, consistent, fun little ride. Like cotton candy.
The stop-motion animation is very well done, a perfect fit for Anderson's style. A classic drawn or 3d animation style would have lacked the depth and field or grounded camera that he usually relies on. With the puppets and tiny sets, he is able to physically place his camera in the center of every scene, making his trademark symmetry feel all the more authentic.
But, though a lot of the sets are very pretty and colorful, many feel incredibly cheap. It's often impossible for the camera to ever zoom in because so much of it lacks detail. The character movements are also very rigid, no doubt a stylistic choice but still something that makes me appreciate the film less.
This is also maybe just me, but I kind of just despise how the animals' hair looks. Between frames, the strands just randomly move and mold in different ways, no doubt due to the models constantly being moved. You can see each little finger impression from behind the scenes. It's just really ugly and unprofessional, especially when combined with lower-framerate character actions.
Though I can't complain about this too much. The fact that it's all visibly stop-motion (compared to smooth, high-budget productions like The Nightmare Before Christmas or Coraline) gives me a bit of nostalgia for videos I watched and made when I was younger. Rough around the edges, but you're still just sort of blown away by the fact that "woah, this is just a series of pictures!"
The comedy isn't really my favorite either, except for Willem Dafoe as the Rat, I loved those scenes too much. But I can't say it isn't well put together. It might not be laugh-out-loud funny but it's often very witty, even absurd a bit. Combined with the phenomenal deliveries from the voice cast, it's a treat.
I love how they deliver jokes with such flatness, and how the script gives nearly every one of the dialogue a comedic or absurd edge to it. The film has a consistent humorous undertone to it. The characters are always super over-the-top, redundant, quirky, or overreacting. But, as I said earlier, I don't think the film is resting on the peak of humor. There aren't really any moments where I thought a joke was perfectly set-up or spontaneous enough to laugh out loud at.
For example, the Rat delivering all of his lines with a smooth snarkiness and then snapping his fingers randomly to sound cool is funny in theory, but it happens consistently through a whole scene. There isn't anyone moment where it catches you by surprise or happens spontaneously/unexpectedly enough to elicit real, sudden laughter.
Same with Bean delivering a letter made of newspaper clipped words, despite everyone knowing his identity already. I think, "that's funny of him to do so," but it's not something I would actually laugh out loud at.
I do think Wes is a bit held back writing family films though. A lot of my favorite jokes from him are due to swearing, violence, and sensuality that comes completely out of the left field and is surreal enough to get me chuckling. Though, for obvious reasons, this film could never have had those moments.
All in all, I think the film is very smartly written though. It excels where it needs to, with the zany characters and simple children's book hero/villain plot. And, despite some hiccups with the puppets/sets, i think it's a great technical achievement as well. I would never call it a masterpiece, but it's certainly a fun little film.