Thursday 8 September 2022

"Tad the Lost Explorer and the Curse of the Mummy" (Guardian 07/09/22)

Tad the Lost Explorer and the Curse of the Mummy

Dir: Enrique Gato. Animation with the voices of: Trevor White, Alex Kelly, Joseph Balderrama. 90 mins. Cert: U

Here is the third entry in a series of modestly budgeted, surprisingly profitable Spanish digimations, shrewdly placed at the end of the summer holidays to capitalise on any waning of interest in Minions and Super-Pets. Parents present for the long haul will have witnessed two stories unfolding, primarily how hapless Chicago bricklayer Tad Stones (dubbed by Kerry Shale first time round, and since by Trevor White) realised his dream of becoming a globetrotting Indiana Jones-like archaeologist. 

The second story, however, is more intriguing: a pronounced narrowing of the gap between those American powerhouses who set the digimated bar and the upstart European studios who boosted their rendering capacity as those erstwhile market leaders began cutting corners. Tad’s sweetheart Sara (Alex Kelly) may possess such a market-stall Disney look you fear legal intervention, but elsewhere this third instalment’s attention to lighting sources indicates many long hours of poring over laptops. Only middling writing lets it down, lacking both the conceptual heft and the quality and quantity of gags we associate with Pixar at their best. 

As the title suggests, we’re following the Howard Carter route this time out, leaving behind the most promising comic idea, namely Tad’s chaotic flatshare with Mummy (Joseph Balderrama), an actual, altogether hyper-caffeinated mummy. (Even here, lame references to dabbing and social media represent an already dated idea of What Kids Like.) 

Still, the pair’s subsequent, standard-issue, 200mph quest for some curse-lifting doodad sporadically tosses up inventive and dynamic design in its wake: lots of secret doors, artefacts and hieroglyphs to puzzle over, and a fun midfilm chase along the Seine involving a motorised bathtub and an odd-landing Notre Dame joke. (Too soon, surely.) Never more than inessential screenfiller, but agreeably jolly with it – partly as it does have some idea of how to fill a screen.

Tad the Lost Explorer and the Curse of the Mummy opens in cinemas nationwide tomorrow.

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