A voice cast including Jessica Biel, Hilary Swank, Patrick Stewart and Susan Sarandon can’t enliven this forgettable animated feature.
There’s scant evidence of any creative spark in Spark: A Space Tail, a thoroughly generic, unremittingly charmless computer-animated adventure featuring a heroic teen monkey that lazily scavenges from the likes of The Lion King and Wall-E without bothering to contribute anything of its own to the hollow synthesis.
That it took 16 executive producers and producers to pull off this Canadian-South Korean collaboration, which was not made available by distributor Open Road for advanced review, is arguably its most notable achievement — despite attracting a voice cast including Jessica Biel, Susan Sarandon, Patrick Stewart and Hilary Swank.
Its bookings in the far reaches of the megaplex will likely go unnoticed, especially considering that the target audience’s Easter baskets are already filled with the still-kicking The Boss Baby and last week’s Smurfs: The Lost Village.
Little does he realize, Spark (voiced by Jace Norman of TV’s Henry Danger) isn’t just another 13-year-old orphaned intergalactic simian who enjoys hanging out with a fleet-footed fox named Vix (Jessica Biel) and a chubby tech-wiz of a warthog called Chunk (Rob deLeeuw) on the trash-ridden remains of Planet Bana. Turns out, 13 years earlier, the power-hungry General Zhong (Alan C. Peterson, riffing shamelessly on Jeremy Irons’ Scar) seized control of Spark’s home and, with the help of a black hole-blasting beast called the Kraken, effectively splintered it into hundreds of shards, killing his ruler dad in the process and absconding with his regal mom (Swank).
Will Spark succeed in preventing Zhong from releasing the Kraken and taking over the entire universe, and, in the process, see his royal lineage rightfully restored?
Cue composer Robert Duncan’s faux “Circle of Life” symphonics.
At least 2014’s The Nut Job, the first feature effort from Toronto-based Toonbox Entertainment (The Nut Job 2 arrives this summer), was able to compensate with some playful visuals for what it lacked in originality.
But the low-budget CG animation on display here, which wouldn’t have passed for state-of-the-art a decade ago, possesses an empty coldness, with limited character expression and truly garish special effects. Not that the mechanical direction and slipshod script, both credited to Aaron Woodley, were necessarily deserving of a more accomplished visual treatment.
That also applies to the efforts of the English-speaking voice cast, including, in more limited roles, Sarandon as Spark’s robot nanny and Stewart as the blustery commander of the royal guard, who have been provided with precious little to work with in terms of engaging characters and dialogue.
While it might not have made for a huge improvement, Spark and company still would have been more at home in the den, where those technical limitations wouldn’t have been glaringly subjected to the demands of the big screen.
Distributor: Open Road Films
Production companies: Redrover Co. Ltd., Toonbox Entertainment, Hoongman, Gulfstream Pictures
Cast: Jace Norman, Jessica Biel, Susan Sarandon, Patrick Stewart, Hilary Swank
Director-screenwriter: Aaron Woodley
Producers: Youngki Lee, Harry Linden, Woo-Kyung Jung, Tracy Grant, Jun Zheng
Executive producers: Daniel Woo, Mike Karz, William Bindley, Zhao Lan Wu, Shawn Zhang, Liang Chen, Hong Kim, Hoe Jin Ha, Jay Ahn, Hyungkon Kim, Sen Jia
Editor: Paul Hunter
Music: Robert Duncan
Rated PG, 90 minutes