Spark: A Space Tail (2 stars)

Spark: A Space Tail

Derivative and dull animation that wastes the vocal talents of Susan Sarandon and Hilary Swank

Opening with a hefty chunk of exposition masquerading as a bedtime story, this Korean-Canadian animation from director Aaron Woodley gets increasingly clunky from that point on. It's hard to know for whom it's been made; while very young kids may appreciate its visual bombast in short doses, older children will likely find themselves tiring of both its charmless, outdated animation and the dull, underbaked narrative.

In a meandering prologue, we see monkey-inhabited planet Bana destroyed by the evil, vertically-challenged Zhong (Alan C Peterson), after which young simian Spark (Jace Norman) is forced to hide out on an outlying fragment of rock with fox Vix (Jessica Biel) and warthog Chunk (Rob deLeeuw). On his 13th birthday, Spark decides to take matters into his own hands, track down the mythical black-hole-making space beast the Kraken and take down Zhong once and for all.

While there's clearly a Star Wars vibe going on in this tale of an impetuous youngster learning how to harness his talents – with Vix taking the role of unwilling Jedi master – that's as far as such comparisons go. Despite a smattering of mildly exciting space battles, and the charming Kraken itself, the film consistently substitutes noise for nuance, a tactic often employed in kids' movies but one that never works, even when the animation is top-notch – and this is far from that.

The impressive voice cast (which includes Susan Sarandon as Spark's robot nanny, Hilary Swank as the Queen of Bana and Patrick Stewart as an army captain) give it their all, but there's no disguising the relentless banality of proceedings. There's also no masking the fact that this story and its characters are a retread of other, better works; Zhong, for example with his sneering, preening villainy, looks and sounds exactly like the simian cousin of The Lion King's Scar. Unoriginal, cold and patronising to its audience, Spark: A Space Tail utterly fails to deliver on the promise of its title.

General release from Fri 26 May.

Spark: A Space Tail

  • 2 stars
  • 2016
  • Canada / South Korea
  • 1h 31min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Aaron Woodley
  • Cast: Jace Norman, Jessica Biel, Susan Sarandon, Patrick Stewart
  • UK release: 26 May 2017

Spark (Norman) is a young monkey who decides to get revenge on evil General Zhong (Peterson), who destroyed his planet. The impressive voice cast can’t help this dull, clunky and unoriginal tale to deliver on its title.