Before we’ve even had time to settle in to our seats, director Aaron Woodley’s Spark: A Space Tails throws us right into the heart of the action, expecting viewers to instantly understand this new world we’ve inhabited, and the rules and context of this particular universe. While kids marvel at the swirling colours and vibrant aesthetic, parents are left scratching their head – as this haphazard opening act is emblematic of a film that runs at a fast pace, certain to appeal to little ones with a rather short attention span.
Jace Normal voices Spark, a teenage monkey who desperately wants to join his best friends Chunk (Rob deLeeuw) and Vix (Jessica Biel) in setting off on extravagant, life-threatening missions utilising all of their latest, most ambitious of inventions. Told he’s too young to partake, when having to pass on a message, instead Spark decides to act upon it himself, and help regain Planet Bana which has been overtaken by the tyrannical rule of overlord Zhong (A.C. Peterson). The barbaric leader wants to capture the ‘Kraken’, to create a black hole and destroy the surrounding planets, despite the plea from his sister-in-law The Queen (Hilary Swank) to stand down. He ignores such a request, and so it’s left to Spark to prevent the universe’s most dangerous narcissistic from getting his hands on the universe’s most dangerous weapon.
Like the majority of animations nowadays, Woodley has vied to implement a comedic relief in the form of several small, quirky characters – ala the Minions. In this instance we have the cockroaches, but they sadly don’t do anything funny. This is indicative of a movie that abides affectionately by all the tropes of the genre at hand in a way that is endearingly familiar, which kids are likely to resonate with – but that doesn’t allude to success. The same narrative structure unfolds, with an orphaned hero in the lead, who ultimately has to save the world – a notion which lays the foundations for so many classic Disney productions to thrive off. Except this is no Disney, and while entertaining in parts, it lacks that sense of pathos and heart. There’s a lot of action and lots of colours, but few moments to pause and reflect, which, if Pixar endeavours are anything to go by, kids appreciate just as much as their parents do.
Another familiarity derives from having an antagonist with a bad haircut who wants to take over the world – but it’s still not enough to allow this picture to stand out from the crowd. As such, it’s somewhat surprising to see the cast who signed up to this project, with a billing that also boasts the talents of Susan Sarandon and Patrick Stewart. Though suppose the latter is also voicing the Poo Emoji later on this year – so this is unlikely to be the last time he’s taking on a role that stinks.
Spark: A Space Tail is released on May 26th