Leo (Aaron Poole) is a Toronto-based theatre director, who finds himself frustrated by the group of misfits that make up his theatre troupe, as well as the fact that he seems to be growing apart from his teenage son Sam (Jacob Switzer). Inspired by a video he made of Sam when he was 8, Leo gets the idea for “The Animal Project,” where he asks the theatre troupe to dress up in animal costumes and interact with strangers in the street. Through this ridiculous concept, Leo learns to bond with Sam, while the other troupe members work out their own individual issues.

The Animal Project is simultaneously as touching as it is hilarious. Even though the premise of having people dress up in animal costumes and walk through the streets of Toronto is inherently ridiculous, director Ingrid Veninger (Modra, i am a good person/i am a bad person) finds a way to make this work, while also adding a lot of heart. The main highlight of the film is a montage, which has the people in animal costumes running wild. Since it’s not initially known who’s in each costume, the animals essentially become characters themselves, with their own unique behaviours. While beginning off as a fun activity, The Animal Project also goes into some of the downsides of dressing up as an animal in public, such as people in the street taking photos or one case when one of the female members gets felt up by a stranger.

At the heart of the film, The Animal Project is about Leo attempting to reconnect with his son Sam. However, as the different members of the theatre troupe pair up with each other, they each end up having their own individual subplots, which develop over the course of the film. For instance, Leo teams up with Saul (Joey Klein), which helps to cure their tumultuous relationship with each other. Another notable pairing includes Pippa (Jessica Greco) and Alice (Hannah Cheesman) and their quest to give out balloons. There are even a few members of the theatrical troupe who find romantic connections throughout the course of the film. As ridiculous as it seems, dressing up as animals helps many of these characters open up about their true feelings and insecurities.

All together, The Animal Project might seem like a “quirky Canadian film” on the outside, but it is still filled with a lot of heart.