ENTERTAINMENT

'Animal Kingdom' Is Now An American TV Series, And It Looks Wild

Is it as good as the original? The reviews are in.

15/06/2016 1:30 PM AEST | Updated July 15, 2016 12:54

Just like it did with 'The Slap', 'Wilfred', 'Kath & Kim' and 'Secrets and Lies', the U.S. has once again looked Down Under to source entertainment inspiration: this time choosing the iconic 2010 film 'Animal Kingdom' to remake into a television series for cable channel TNT.

Premiering in the U.S. on Tuesday night, 'Animal Kingdom' was adapted for television by Jonathan Lisco and stars Ellen Barkin as Smurf (the role which earned Jacki Weaver her first Academy Award nomination) as well as Ben Robson, Jake Weary, Scott Speedman, Finn Cole and Shawn Hatosy.

While The Hollywood Reporter described the ensemble cast as "promising", fans of David Michôd's original film may still argue it will be difficult to fill the shoes left by the likes of Weaver, Ben Mendelsohn and Joel Edgerton... but more on that later.

Staying true to plot of the movie, 'Animal Kingdom' starts off with the plight of 17-year-old Josh "J" Cody (Cole), who is taken in by his grandmother Smurf -- and, by extension, her brood of criminal sons -- after his mother dies of a heroin overdose.

Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy
Sullivan Stapleton and Jacki Weaver in the original.

What follows from there is aptly summarised by Nick Allen for RogerEbert.com:

Numb and malleable, J enters into his family's life of committing armed robbery and engaging in other extreme behavior, like surfing, jumping off the roof into the family pool, or using the threat of violence as power. The story follows J as his new figures influence him through timeless values of family: No secrets, family above all else, and most importantly, mother is always right. After one robbery job blows up in their faces, "Animal Kingdom" follows the contrasting, hidden dynamics between each member of the group, as there become more secrets at play than anyone knows.

While this may sound juicy enough, the million dollar question beckons: how does this new U.S. version compare to the Aussie original?

The reviews are in and thus far, impressions are varied.

"As the Codys become divided, the intricacies of this family story rarely make for gripping, surprising television," Allen wrote in his review. "Part of this can be blamed on the rough draft performances, who often fail to inject their own life into Michôd's templates that have been carried over.

"Even when men like Deran or Craig are shown to have their blind spots, the revelations don't create magnetism so much as motion to keep the story headed towards a shrugging end.

"Although the first two episodes were directed by John Wells (no stranger to the villainy of family with his 2013 film, 'August: Osage County'), 'Animal Kingdom' has a hard time finding its own charisma."

WireImage
Ellen Barkin takes on the role of Smurf in TNT's 'Animal Kingdom'.

According to Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter, "there's potential in TNT's new drama based on a 2010 Australian film about a crime family, but the show tries too hard to be gritty," while TIME's Daniel D'Addario says the series "is the television equivalent of a summer movie that you go to precisely because it's unambitious".

Maureen Ryan from Variety notes: "...in the course of the drama's first three episodes, it becomes more and more apparent that, despite its characters' shady pasts and dicey decisions, the show is, on the whole, fairly predictable and even conventional. Its characters never really do anything all that surprising: It's no shock that a family united by heists would end up breaking all sorts of other laws, and any time anyone on screen utters the sentence, 'There are no secrets in this family,' that's the cue for a scene or two of duplicitous behavior."

Where praise is reserved, however, is for Barkin's performance.

"The actress is at last used perfectly, even on an imperfect show," D'Addario writes, while according to Allen, "her scheming scenes of buddying up with her different boys, commanding them over a busy kitchen table with a glint of Oedipal psychology, make for the show's best moments."

So will the show make the same splash as its predecessor? It seems unlikely, though Barkin may put in her best efforts at holding the fort.

Want to have a go at comparing the two for yourself? Check out the trailers below.

Animal Kingdom (2016)

Animal Kingdom (2010)

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