Film review: This space-monkey ‘tail’ lacks any real Spark

Spark: A Space Tail is a mishmash of films centering on the story of a young monkey whose home planet is destroyed but then finds his real place in the universe.

Simian animation in Spark: A Space Tail. Courtesy Gulf Film
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Spark: A Space Tail

Director: Aaron Woodley

Voices: Jessica Biel, Patrick Stewart, Susan Sarandon, Hilary Swank

Two stars

A South Korean-Canadian co-production, Spark: A Space Tail is a real mishmash of a movie. A derivative story that borrows heavily from Star Wars, Clash of the Titans and Planet of the Apes begins with a rapid-fire set-up – told like a bedtime tale to young space monkey, Spark (Jace Norman).

Thirteen years earlier, his home planet Bana was overrun by the evil General Zhong (Alan C Peterson), who shattered it into shards with the help of a space beast called the Kraken.

Spark now lives with his fellow refugees – a battle-hardened fox named Vix (Jessica Biel) and a tech-savvy warthog called Chunk (Rob deLeeuw) – on a shard, far from Bana. But when events conspire to take him back there, Spark makes some remarkable discoveries about his lineage and place in the universe.

What follows is a pinball plot that bounces Spark and his friends around the galaxy, through black holes created by the Kraken, as they try to wrestle control back from Zhong and his minions.

Also among the voice cast – presumably for a swift payday – are Patrick Stewart as a long-lost Scottish commander of the royal guard, and Susan Sarandon as a robot named Bananny (this being an intergalactic world of monkeys, there are a lot of references to the yellow fruit).

Hilary Swank also makes an appearance as Zhong's queen, though like her co-stars, she is left with little to work with. In fact, the most distinctive vocal performance comes from Rob deLeeuw (Spotlight, TV's Fargo), albeit sounding as if he is channelling John Goodman.

Created by ToonBox Entertainment, who also made 2014's The Nut Job, on this evidence the Toronto company is not likely to be troubling the likes of Pixar and Illumination anytime soon. The CGI animation is subpar and lacks any, well, spark.

There is the occasional nice in-joke – a reference to classic simian character Curious George was well done – but mostly it feels like cine-larceny, with an unoriginal script recycling tired old sci-fi/fantasy storylines.

For adults kind enough to sit through this with their youngsters, there is little here to keep them engaged.