December is a perfect month for watching warm fuzzy movies. The stress and anxiety of the holiday season can take its toll, so spending time with family and watching heartwarming fare can be a wonderful way to relax. Recently, my mom, my husband, and I had a wonderful time watching Love Hard, despite any of the questionable bits. I’ve enjoyed the overly saccharine The Christmas Setup and even endured the annoying parts of Happiest Season, all for that cozy holiday cheer. While not a holiday movie, Extinct (2021) is an animated movie filled with warm, fuzzy creatures, so I figured this was a logical addition to my holiday watch list.
So, what’s the verdict? The plot lags, the moral lessons are misguided, but are those fluffy little donut creatures adorable? Yes. Yes, they are.
I’m a minion hater. Everyone knows this about me. So I should be immune to adorable merchandiser-friendly fellows.
There’s no way I could resist the little donut creatures in Extinct (2021). They’re called Flummels and I love them. I want a Flummel stuffed animal and Flummel slippers and a Flummel neck pillow. They’re just so wonderfully illogical. Where are their organs located? Where do their limbs go when they enter their full donut form and roll around? What is the evolutionary purpose of the hole?
Of course, they encounter actual donuts during the film. Of course, they express terror when they see someone else biting into those donuts. Of course, the jelly in those donuts spurts out like blood, eliciting shock and terror.
All right, so now that that’s out of my system, I can finally get to the plot of Extinct (2021). The Flummels live on a single island and have a yearly flower festival. Op and Ed* haven’t gathered many flowers, and it’s clear the two are disliked by the majority of the Flummels, due to Op being, well, kind of annoying. When Op creates a tidal wave and destroys the flowers, both siblings are kicked out of the festival. While searching for the perfect flower to win back everyone’s love, the siblings are sucked into a time portal and sent to the future where they find out their species is extinct. They spend the rest of the movie learning lessons and trying to save their species. All while being adorable, fuzzy little donuts. Awwwww.
*Absolutely no clue why they’re named Op-Ed as neither Flummel spends time writing into a newspaper’s op-ed section. I would have gone with Hoop and Loop, but that’s just me…
One way Extinct (2021) sets itself apart is that the present-day scenes take place in Shanghai, China. So many animated movies are set in non-descript or fictional cities, and when the city is recognizable, it’s often one in America or Europe. Choosing a Chinese city to represent the modern world makes these scenes unique and memorable. Still, it would have been nice to see more of Shanghai and its residents, although given this film’s tendency to drag, maybe this was for the best. Dr. Chung, the genius who discovered time travel is also Chinese. Although Dr. Chung doesn’t appear much in the movie, he is the film’s most visible and important human character, and Benedict Wong does well with the small roll.
As far as other notable characters, the main two Flummels are played by Adam Devine and Rachel Bloom, Ken Jeong plays a fluffy poodle, Zazie Beetz plays a rather sensual dodo (I really wish I had a better way to describe this). Steve Aoki plays a Flummel who looks like him, which is both strange and amazing.
Like many children’s movies, Extinct (2021) tries to impart moral lessons, and most of them are frankly kinda sketchy. This part of the review will definitely contain spoilers, so skip this section if that bothers you! Just be aware that this movie would have been a lot better had they skipped on the life lessons and focused more on the cute fuzzy fellows.
I’ll start with the least questionable lesson. A group of extinct animals, called the Extintcables, lives in a safe out-of-time spot to stay alive. They learn over the course of the movie to take risks to help their friends. I appreciate this lesson overall. The only reason it’s included here is because at the end of the movie, The Extinctables live on a beautiful, gorgeous island in the middle of nowhere, so they basically trade a safe laboratory for a much safer paradise. Still, I can’t judge them for doing exactly what I’d do.
I’m so tired of the twist villain cliché. Sure, it worked well in Toy Story 2 and Monsters Inc, but that’s because the villains’ motives were completely in line with their previous actions. The twist in these movies only becomes apparent when the hero gets in the villain’s way, and then the villain must reveal their bad side. These villains would have preferred never to commit an evil act—but they weren’t willing to compromise their goals, hence resorting to monstrous methods.
Meanwhile, the twist in Extinct (2021) makes the villain seem like two separate characters. Pre-twist Clarence is benevolent and helpful, he educates the Flummels and guides them on their journey. If he hadn’t done these things, the Flummels never would have succeeded, and there wouldn’t even be a movie.
Post-Twist Clarence is EVIL. He betrays his loving family, murders an entire species in cold blood, and displays no sympathy or remorse for his actions. The reason for Clarence’s sudden evil is his childhood trauma, which is in itself a terrible lesson. People who survive childhood trauma and form loving relationships are survivors deserving admiration, and it feels cruel to teach children to see them as potential monsters liable to betray their loved ones at any moment.
This is the central lesson of Extinct (2021), and thus, the most egregious.
Op is kind of awful. She guides a whale in to shore, which destroys the festival flowers and gets her and her brother kicked out of the festival. She knocks seeds over in a secure lab, which starts a chain of events that gets Clarence lost in time. She is an agent of chaos and destruction. So Ed makes her promise not to make plans without him. Almost immediately, she forgets this and launches a complex and daring plan that successfully saves Clarence as well as their sole method of returning to their island, without which they could not save their species.
So, of course, this is when Ed gets angry with her. Because she didn’t listen to him and one of their friends is mildly injured. Op’s actions are genuinely dangerous, and they get people hurt. She deserves a stern talking to at the very least, and frankly, I wouldn’t blame Ed for avoiding her simply to stay safe, as many of her failed plans cause him physical pain. But, of course, the one time she is held accountable is the one time her plan actually works.
In order to redeem herself, Op immediately launches herself into a plan without Ed, showing that she isn’t any closer to learning a lesson. Meanwhile, Ed is criticized for being angry at his dangerous sister. He is instructed to forgive her before she has put in any genuine work of changing or improving herself. Apparently, she deserves this because she supports him and because she is his sister. I’m uncomfortable teaching children that they must stay close to relatives exhibiting dangerous behavior just because those relatives are supportive or because they are family. Indeed, Op only acknowledges her flaws when Ed launches them into a dangerous plan without her consent, and she apologizes, finally understanding what she does to others. I suppose this is progress…
So are the adorable little donut creatures in Extinct (2021) worth a meandering plot filled with questionable lessons? Only you can decide. As far as warm, fuzzy holiday movies, you might be better off picking up something more relaxing that doesn’t involve dodgy morals and the attempted massacre of an innocent tubular species, but then again, those furry fellows sure are precious. I’m too busy searching for Flummel merch on Etsy, so I’ll leave the final call up to you.