Review: ‘The Old Man: The Movie’ Is Stop-Motion Excellence From Estonia

In the late ‘90’s, a short cartoon called The Spirit of Christmas was traded from hand to hand, dubbed onto countless VHS tapes as people discovered the foul-mouthed, crudely animated world of South Park. In the early ‘80’s, Sam Raimi made an ultra-low budget, blood soaked horror movie with a bunch of his friends and thus The Evil Dead was born. Later that same decade, in far-off New Zealand, Peter Jackson was making a similarly blood-soaked opus that became Bad Taste. It seems each generation has one or two filmmakers who tap into a creative energy that is so undeniable that it just jumps off the screen. The Old Man: The Movie, might just fill those gonzo filmmaking shoes for the 2020’s.

The Old Man: The Movie, directed by Oskar Lehemaa and Mikk Mägi, is still making the festival circuit, recently playing at the always awesome Fantastic Fest. The Old Man has several features that might make a Western audience shy away. First, it’s a stop-motion animation movie. I’ve heard countless friends immediately discard a movie as “claymation” and just move along. As a person who loved the original King Kong and gobbled up any movie that Ray Harryhausen was involved in, stop motion is more of a selling-point than a detriment. Second, The Old Man is Estonian. Now, international films, in this day and age, should be common viewing, but for many, it’s still a sticking point. 

The Old Man: The Movie follows three young siblings as they are dropped off at their grandfather’s farm for the summer. Unsurprisingly, the kids are less than enthusiastic, especially when they discover that much of their time will be spent shovelling poop on their grandfather’s dairy farm.

But, quickly things turn. You see, their grandfather, the titular “old man” is a bit of a rock star of cow milking. The townfolk all gather to catch milk in jars as he demonstrates his enthusiastically theatrical milking techniques. Unfortunately, the cow is overworked and the kids think it’s time to set the cow free.

The remainder of the movie is a road/chase movie with the cow meandering across the countryside. The farmer is trying to catch the cow as it is his meal ticket. The kids want to convince their grandfather to be nicer to the cow. All the while, the evil Old Milker… oh, did I forget to mention Old Milker? Old Milker discovered that if you don’t milk a cow for 24 hours it will explode into a nuclear level lactoapocalypse, so, he’s out to kill any unmilked cow.

Here is the latest episode of Find Your Film, a podcast hosted by Bruce Purkey, Eric Holmes and Greg Srisavasdi:

If all of this sounds a bit silly, it is, but in the best ways. The adventures are full of exuberant energy and overflowing with creativity. The humor is sometimes sublimely subtle, like the moment when one of Old Milker’s henchmen has a quiet moment of existential dread. Sometimes the humor is lowbrow and scatalogical, or, even, lactological (I’ll pause for you to let that dad joke sink in). But, whatever type of humor you prefer, there should be enough bonkers greatness for any fan of cult cinema.