Dirs: Kim Hagen Jensen, Tonni Zinck. Animation with the voices of: Robyn Dempsey, Emma Jenkins, Luke Griffin, Tom Hale. 80 mins. Cert: U
With Onward returning to the top of last week’s box-office chart, the first in four months, it’s clear our tentatively reopening multiplexes will be relying more than ever on family audiences to help make up for the enforced drop in Q2 footfall. This digimated import – the handiwork of Denmark’s Pixar-aping Hydralab – might have shifted a modest number of Saturday-morning popcorn deals in the days before the Coronavirus came to town: it’s bright, derivative of only the most illustrious predecessors, and all over inside 80 minutes. Whether it would be worth corralling everybody in an enclosed public space for that time and thereby risking the lives of you and yours will have to be a matter for individual consumers to decide.
Its strongest selling point is the animation itself. As we follow pre-teen Minna into the hinterland of her own dreams – there to see how her fantasies and nightmares are conjured up by a cast and crew of Smurf-blue tin men – it’s apparent that directors Kim Hagen Jensen and Tonni Zinck have granted Team Hydralab an appreciably loose rein. They’ve returned clutching a network of "dreamstages" (think soundstages for sleep) connected by a rattly, gravity-defying funfair infrastructure – not unlike the Monsters, Inc. assembly line, but extended further out into abstract space. That worldbuilding is a cut above the character design, which proves rather more beholden to the wide-eyed Disney-Pixar template, without its expressive range.
Elsewhere, the adventurous cinemagoer will find themselves confronted with the usual shortfalls of imported animated content. Any sharpness of angle in the original concept – like Minna’s realisation she can infiltrate her snippy, Insta-obsessed stepsister's reveries and make her a better person – soon gets dulled by blunt translation and bland redubbing. If you just wanted to plonk everyone down in front of pretty shapes and colours for 80 minutes, then Dreambuilders would serve you on the same level as the loop-the-loops of last year’s equally middling Wonder Park – but then that movie had the advantage of releasing before the emergence of a lethal airborne virus. Context used to be everything; it’s become a matter of life and death.
Dreambuilders opens in selected cinemas from today.