A new feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at Richard Gere in “Norman,” Emma Watson in the cyber thriller “The Circle” and the animated movie “Spark: A Space Tail.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies, Richard Gere in “Norman,” Emma Watson in the cyber thriller “The Circle” and the animated movie “Spark: A Space Tail.”
The new animated film Spark: A Space Tail boasts an a-list cast, actors who haven’t done a lot of kid’s films. In an e-mail conversation with Susan Sarandon, whose voice appears alongside Patrick Stewart, Jessica Biel and Hilary Swank, the Dead Man Walking star says she took the role because, “I’ve never played a robot before.”
In the Canada-South Korea co-production she plays Bananny, the automaton nanny for the teen chimp Spark. He’s an ape and her name is a play on the word banana, the preferred simian snack. It’s that kind of movie. Once the prince of a planet of the apes called Bana (banana without the “na,” get it?), Spark lives on a tiny slice of his former home, one of many planetary bits blown into space thirteen years ago following a coup by the Napoleon-esque Zhong.
The actress, who recently won raves playing Bette Davis on the decidedly-not-for-children hit television series Feud, says the best kid’s flicks are movies, “both adults and kids can enjoy simultaneously and [ones that don’t] patronize the children. Real emotion. When the kids save the day.”
Without giving away too much, the new film stays close to the Thelma and Louise actress’ ethos. The movie draws from Star Wars, WALL-E and just about every other adolescent-in-space movie where the young’uns are the unexpected heroes.
Spark lives with former royal guard members, Vix and Chunk, warriors whose job is to protect, train and prepare Spark for his destiny—the recapture of the kingdom. He’s an underdog kids will identify with.
As a child the Oscar winner was drawn to movies with strong central characters. Her favourites included The Boy With the Green Hair, an anti-bullying movie starring Dean Stockwell and Bambi, the Disney classic about strength in the face of extreme adversity.
Sarandon, whose previous voice work includes decidedly adult entries like the female outlaw story Cassius and Clay, the comedy Hell and Back, about two friends whop must rescue a friend accidentally dragged to Hades, and kid’s flicks like the fantasy James and the Giant Peach and Rugrats in Paris: The Movie, says the animated films she gets offered differ from live action, particularly in the realm of kid’s entertainment. Children’s animated films more primal, basic, she says. “Animation allows for more fantastical stories without being too real or scary.”
Children’s animation, with no-holds-barred visuals and wild stories, she asserts, are good for kids but ultimately she takes an old school position on the significance of cartoons in the development of a child’s imagination.
“I think books are the most important, but animation tackles a lot of social interaction, so it’s really important to make sure that the moral of the story is a good, positive one.”
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.”