Mary and Max (2009)

Mary and Max – animated stop motion film review

Mary and Max is a 2009 stop motion film. Or as my boyfriend put it – “the same way they do Wallace and Gromit”. It’s rated 12 in the UK which seems fairly normal for a ‘serious issues’ kids film but upon watching it I decided it wasn’t a kids film at all. Mary and Max is an animated film for grown ups (but not in the same way as Family Guy).

The premise is fairly self-explanatory – Mary (Toni Collette) is a young girl from Australia who is bullied at school and called an ‘accident’ by her alcoholic mother. She begins corresponding with Max (Philip Seymour Hoffman) a morbidly obese guy from New York who has Asperger syndrome and lives a lonely life. Straight away that sounds cool, right? A thoughtful, sad and lovely tale.

Well, good things first. The film was instantly captivating. As well as being pleasing to the eye and finding myself immediately interested in both main characters, the story is told in a simplistic style similar to that of a children’s book – which I enjoyed. There is a narrator (Barry Humphries) which is something I enjoy in any film and a silly, irreverent humour that is usually aimed at kids (and me of course). For instance when Humphries is describing Mary’s birthmark, he calls it “the colour of poo”. And poo is just a silly word isn’t it.


The friendship and correspondence between Mary and Max is lovely to watch. I’m a softie anyway and seeing two people with tough lives finding solace in each another is very endearing indeed. One letter from Mary had me in tears after she wrote to Max “have you ever been teased? Can you help me?” – heart breaking right?

But Mary and Max is also very funny – and not just because they use the word poo. As well as being reminiscent at times of Roald Dahl’s children’s books (Mary’s father works in a factory putting the strings on teabags) it’s also darkly funny. I spied a tube of “vaginal cream” in Mary’s mother’s medicine cupboard as well as the word “fuck” graffiti-ed on Max’s tube train. So the adult jokes and references are in plentiful supply and twinned with some of the dark themes and violence, as I said before – this is definitely an animated film for the grown ups.

But I’m genuinely sorry to say I didn’t end up loving Mary and Max as much as I thought I would. It started off really good and I genuinely was enthralled but after the first 50 minutes the film became more and more contrived and I couldn’t help but think the story was just trying too hard to be poignant and hard hitting. The entire soundtrack could have been The Smiths singing ‘Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want’.

I don’t want to give any spoilers or put people off because this is still a good film that’s funny, sad, charming and does tackle issues in a unique way – I would recommend it to all of you. But without saying too much, it just gets…….kind of ridiculous – for me anyway. And there were scenes I should have been crying at or at least felt emotionally connected to – but I just couldn’t believe in what I was seeing and instead felt marginally embarrassed. Parts of the plot felt too affected and I don’t think the film benefited – at all – from being so dark.

It was nice that dear Philip Seymour Hoffman starred in the film, voicing Max. It was hard to imagining it was him sometimes, as the gruff old school ‘New Ywwarker’ Max. The accent he did was absolutely spot on (and as a young lady from England I’m entirely qualified to judge that I know – but it was still awesome, okay? Yeah I chucked in Yank word on purpose…).


All in all I was disappointed by some parts of Mary and Max and I didn’t like the ending but that’s personal and doesn’t take away that’s it’s still an original movie with a sweet sentiment. It’s not even that long (about 85 minutes), it wasn’t expensive to buy (something we used to do before downloads) and if you’re a fan of animation and stop motion or you just want something a bit different to Pixar or Studio Ghibli, I would recommend it.


About emmakwall

Films, books, soundtracks, good humour
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57 Responses to Mary and Max (2009)

  1. Hmm. Given I’m not a huge fan of stop motion films (I have no idea why), I think I might stick with Wallace and Gromit.

  2. theipc says:


    Miss you!!!


    • emmakwall says:

      #poo #seanpertwee

      Pen, I started watching the TV show Gotham and Sean Pertwee is in it!!!!!

      Miss you too my dear Pen 😦

      SUCKS! 😦


  3. Jay says:

    I just loved this one. Loved it!

  4. beetleypete says:

    I can understand your disappointment, but I still loved this little gem of a film. One of the few stop-motion films I like, in fact. The choice of the cast really elevated it, and I could easily watch it again.
    Best wishes, Pete. x

    • emmakwall says:

      Yeah it was very enjoyable, just thought it was OTT in places. It was kind of embarrassing! And the ending was a disappointment. Felt the director tried too hard really, but generally I very much enjoyed it:) I’m not a huge fan of stop motion either, or any animation to be honest. I’d rather watch ‘proper’ actors! 🙂 x

  5. That Other Critic says:

    I’ll have to check this movie out. I really like stop motion movies, my favorite is Corpse Bride. I may be the only person in the world who prefers Corpse Bride to Nightmare Before Christmas.

    • emmakwall says:

      I’ve never seen Corpse Bride and I don’t think I’ve seen Nightmare Before Christmas either!!! Is that sacrilege?

      I think you’d like this movie 🙂

      • That Other Critic says:

        It might be sacrilege, but I think it’s acceptable sacrilege. 😉
        Yeah, I should probably watch it.

        • emmakwall says:

          I should probably watch The Nightmare Before Christmas! 🙂

          There’s a number of other films I’ve never seen that may shock you!!

          • That Other Critic says:

            Like what, pray tell?
            I’m beginning to narrow down the list of cinematic milestones I’ve missed…but I still haven’t seen Godfather, Titanic, The Shining, etc.

            • emmakwall says:

              Okay I’ve seen all those three!

              BUT….never seen a James Bond film from start to finish. And I’ve never seen the original Star Wars…..(I know!)

            • That Other Critic says:

              Whoa. If you were going to watch a Bond film at some point, I’d recommend Goldeneye or Casino Royale. And as for Star Wars…it’s great.

            • emmakwall says:

              Thanks 🙂

              I know, I know! I think I’ve missed the boat though.

              What’s the Bond with the theme “no-body does it better….” I think it starts with a parachute jump down a mountain or something. You know…something standard Bond-esque!

            • That Other Critic says:

              That’s from The Spy Who Loved Me, another one of my favorites. 🙂
              I’ve seen all the Bond films, in order, but that’s not something I would recommend. The quality varies constantly, and the series has eras of mediocrity. It’s also severely tonally inconsistent, switching from silliness (Moonraker, Die Another Day) and brutal violence (Licence to Kill, Casino Royale). It makes for an odd viewing experience.

            • emmakwall says:

              You’re a real expert! I’m starting to feel mildly embarrassed haha!

              I think I need to see The Spy Who Loved Me before any other, I had a feeling it had to be that one anyway and now I know it’s one of your favourites too 😀

              What did you think of Skyfall? I hear so much adoration for that one. My dad really like the old school silly ones 🙂

            • That Other Critic says:

              I’m a bit of a Bond nerd. 🙂
              I love Skyfall, I think it manages to find a happy medium between silliness and brutality that the Bond films of the past 15-ish years have struggled to do. Also, the action is great, and it looks beautiful.

            • emmakwall says:

              I know a lot of people loved that film which is why I asked 🙂 so who is your favourite Bond?!!!!

              Was Skyfall the one were M died?

              Don’t you think Daniel Craig looks a little like Sid James and who should be the next Bond?

            • That Other Critic says:

              Ooh, my favorite Bond is either Timothy Dalton, Daniel Craig, or Roger Moore. (One of those things is not like the others!)
              Yes, Judi Dench’s M died in Skyfall, you are correct.
              I didn’t know who Sid James was, but now that I looked him up, yes, Daniel Craig does look like him. 🙂

            • emmakwall says:

              Lol I must sound like a nutty English girl “Sid James” !!! He was in ridiculous British comedy films (have you heard of the Carry On series?) so makes it even sillier Daniel Craig looks like him haha.

              I often think of Timothy Dalton in Hot Fuzz!

              “Fire….” you know which scene I mean 😀

              Your choices are cool! 🙂

            • That Other Critic says:

              There’s a Bond alumni in two of the Cornetto films, funnily enough. I was really surprised when Brosnan showed up in The World’s End.

            • That Other Critic says:

              Also, I’m not sure who should play Bond next. Idris Elba might be good, but maybe he wouldn’t be…

            • emmakwall says:

              I think he would be the coolest Bond EVER I really think they should give it to him!!!! Tom Hardy would be too much of a cliché.

            • That Other Critic says:

              Tom Hardy’s kind of too “generic clean-cut dude” for Bond, imo.

  6. Great review! I’m happy you like it overall. The ridiculous part your talking about… Would it be the


    Almost suicide?

    That was almost a bit much for me too. The strange music and weird angles were a tad much (and by a tad… I mean kinda a lot). But I loved the characters so much at that point I overlooked it. And he end was disappointing. Womp Womp.

    But overall, so good!

    Great review!!

    • emmakwall says:

      Hello dear Mel!!!! 🙂


      Yes that part! I found it really cringe. I should have been upset but I wasn’t, I just felt embarrassed. Which isn’t right! I felt the director/write tried a bit too hard, and what’s wrong with a happy bloody ending? Or at least Max could have met Mary before he died. It was all a bit too “poignant” but I hope I didn’t sound as though I hated it because I was genuinely transfixed for the first hour and it still made me shed tears (during their original letters) and I loved Mary and I loved Max. And I loved the humour and the narrator and loads of stuff really! So it was a success 🙂 and I am looking forward to watching Harvie Krumpet 😀

      Thanks Mel 🙂

      • I totally agree! I felt more obligated to like those parts because I liked the beginning more than genuinely feeling sad. Does that make sense? Kind of like I was being manipulated into feeling sad.
        But I’m glad you liked it overall! So did I. I love their early letters so much. Great moments.

  7. Tom says:

    I love the word ‘poo.’ I feel like i’m getting away with some mischief every time I say it. And it’s a lot less harsh-sounding than ‘shit.’

    I’d like to check out this film, I’ve been hearing mixed things about it but by all accounts the film sounds worth a peek. Voice talent alone is something special. Good review Em!

    • emmakwall says:

      Thanks Tom! Haha, definitely a mischievous word, very child-like I think! I love it! Ha ha ha (so mature)

      Let me know what you think of the movie when you watch it? I’d love to know! 🙂

      #poo #shit

      • Tom says:





        • emmakwall says:

          My friend was so sick of all the pretentious and smug status updates on facebook she went on a massive rant about how she was going to invent something called “bum book” and the only thing you were allowed to post about was your bowel movements and how many times you’d “poo’ed” and your profile picture had to be a bum etc etc.

          It just makes me laugh still sometimes thinking of her rant!


  8. 365dniwobiektywielg says:

    Super !

  9. This is on my Netflix queue and I have started the first 2 minutes about 8 times. You’ve convinced me to sit down and watch the whole thing! I’m sad to read that you were a little disappointed after the first 50 minutes – I’ll have to let you know next week if I agree!

    • emmakwall says:

      Yay! Your comment made my day 🙂 it really did. Just one person saying they will watch it because of my review – YAY!

      I hope I didn’t sound like I hated it after the first 50 minutes because I certainly didn’t but it got a little weird (for me anyway) and I guess it ruined what would have been an ‘amazing / unforgettable’ film and made it more average but still very special in places 🙂

      Let me know what you think!!! And thanks again for your comment Jessica 🙂

  10. vinnieh says:

    This is an amazing review, sounds like a very touching film in some respects.

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