I hate puns and I especially hate punny titles. Imagine taking the time to read “the Long Quiche Goodbye: A Cheese Shop Mystery” or a thriller called “Doppelgangster.” The mind reels. As such, my expectations for the animated outer space monkey movie “Spark: A Space Tail” were not high. Sadly, my expectations were met.
Once the prince of a planet of the apes called Bana (banana without the “na”), Spark (voice of Jace Norman) is a teenage chimp living on a tiny slice of his former planet, one of many blown into space thirteen years ago following a coup by the Napoleon-esque Zhong (voice of Alan C. Peterson). Spark lives with robot caretaker Bananny (voice of Susan Sarandon) and former royal guard members, Vix (voice of Jessica Biel) and Chunk (voice of Rob deLeeuw), warriors whose job is to protect, train and prepare Spark for his destiny—the recapture of the kingdom. Key to Zhong’s defeat is the Galactic Kraken, a beast whose harnessed power may be the most powerful weapon history has ever known.
An air of déjà vu hangs heavy over “Spark: A Space Tail.” Anyone over the age of four will immediately recognize story elements lightly lifted from “Star Wars,” “WALL-E” and just about any other adolescent in space movie that came before. Most of the borrowed concepts were good ideas the first, second or even third time around but feel a bit been-there-done-that here.
But it’s not just the story that feels shopworn. Space underdog stories will always find some kind of audience but other than a couple of effective scenes of interplanetary dodge ball the animation here is as unattractive as it gets. Not only is “Spark: A Space Tail” saddled with a story that would have been quite at home in an early nineties direct to video release, but it has animation to match. The a-lister cast—including Sarandon, Patrick Stewart and Hilary Swank among others—cannot compensate for visuals that redefine the word generic.
Unfortunately the punny title may be the best thing about “Spark: A Space Tail.”