Wednesday 21 August 2019

Jet set Willy: "Astro Kid"

Not to be confused with Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy - the bequiffed anime creation last seen on our screens in a perky 2009 cartoon - or, indeed, with Level 42's "Micro Kid", Astro Kid is the English language title of a film known in its native France as Terra Willy. (You can understand why the change was made.) The business of this appealingly designed yet derivative and blandly overdubbed digimation is separation anxiety in outer space: an asteroid storm sunders the happy intergalactic home little Willy shares with his parents, and deposits the lad on a rocky planet with only a squat talking robot for immediate company. While we wait for the inevitable reunion, we compile a mental checklist of the films and shows that writer-director Éric Tosti may have been borrowed from. The family's domestic setup is very Lost in Space; the asteroids a touch of Gravity; the red planet not dissimilar to that Matt Damon found himself on in The Martian, although it transpires that Willy and his robo-companion - who may remind kids of Big Hero 6's Baymax, and accompanying adults of Metal Mickey - are not entirely alone. Even the green tinge that creeps into the narrative seems a swipe from the adjacent planet of Avatar. There's scarcely a single element that hasn't been tried and proven to be a box-office success; you may wonder whether the computer that did the visuals was also set to generating the script.

That alone renders Astro Kid inessential, to say the least; yet somewhere in here, there exists a showreel for the benefits of a slower processing speed. The film is unusually (and not unpleasantly) relaxed in ways those hypercaffeinated American screenfillers aren't, resisting the usual manic running around lesser digimations give into to disguise their lack of substance in favour of the quietly pleasing sight of a kid making himself at home in a new environment. (A cute moment dropped in just after the closing credits indicates that Tosti isn't just dashing through this bric-a-brac universe in search of the quick bucks these films can whip up.) It's still no more than a mixed bag, all told, with pretty colours that may ensure it serves some purpose as a Saturday-morning pacifier for the very young, but nowhere near enough for older and more demanding viewers to chew on: it's a slightly surprising PG certificate, and patently the kind of thing that has to be released towards the end of the school holidays, when the more pressing entertainments and diversions have all been exhausted.

Astro Kid opens in selected cinemas from Friday.

No comments:

Post a Comment