While in no overtly way religious, this is a Noah's Ark story, so by
definition it's a biblical story. What's amazing about All Creature Big
and Small is the implausibility of it all. The basic setup is that Noah
subcontracts whose "on" and "off" the Ark the the spitting image of The
Lion King, who - after decreeing that omnivores can't eat herbivores -
has both the final say over what animals can and can't board the Ark.
(As for Noah himself: like all humans, he's conspicuously absent
throughout movie.) After the flood eventually comes, some on the "out
list" stowaway aboard the Ark. So far, standard kids fare.
One of those excluded from being on board is a constantly worried
pessimist while the other is a silver-lining optimist. This all
proceeds entertainingly enough. But when push comes to shove and their
lives are imminently threatened toward the end of the movie, things
fall apart. The pessimist learns the value of trust and kinship, while
the optimist comes to appreciate the value of force and decisiveness.
But instead of leaving things there, the movie makers decide to
moralize the story such that the now extinct creature metamorphose into
ones adaptable to their environment. The problem, of course, is that -
at least as it's currently understood - evolution does not affect a
single generation but rather takes thousands if not millions of years.
On the surface, this deus ex machina is a simple contrivance to create
a happy ending for all (excepting the villains of the story). But more
deeply it seems to suggest not only that Creationism and Evolution each
have their merits, but also posits that they are not mutually exclusive
of one another. In the end, however, the more plausible storyline seems
to be that that it is the fittest species that survives. The only
"happy ending" for the less fortunate creatures is force-fitted into
the story through within-generation evolution, a resolution that is
neither satisfying nor plausible. No one the viewer cares about dies;
their means of survival are wrapped up in silly previously-unrecognized
abilities like breathing under water, farting or squirting a noxious
fluid, or an oversized slug turning into a whale.
I suspect that it was not the producer's intention, but its is their
having to fictionalize the story of the non-fittest animals debases the
entire argument of Creationism. Rather that crafting a story in which
Creationism and Evolution co-exist, All Creature Big and Small's
reliance on inexplicable Acts of God debases the prior ideology while
making a mockery of the latter.
The movie evades death - particularly the death of a species - in its
wrongheaded portrayal of natural selection as something that can redeem
an individual life rather than that which determines the continued
existence of a species. Clearly this is anti-scientific, though this
might be forgiven for the movie's merits as mindless entertainment for
children. However, the net impact is that in seeking to appeal to both
Creationists/Individualists and Evolutionists/Collectivists, neither
narrative is coherent.
The movie is visually engaging and often funny, and it's for these
reasons that our 9, 10 and 11-year-old seemed to enjoy it. But the
14-year-old laughed "at it" not "with it," suggesting that for some
ideals in life there is no viable middle ground.