STARDOG AND TURBOCAT / CERT: U / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: BEN SMITH / STARRING: LUKE EVANS, NICK FROST, GEMMA ARTERTON / RELEASE DATE: 6TH DECEMBER
British animation studio Red Star, which made its name with 3D and 4D animations for theme parks and other special attractions where children can be dazzled, makes its feature film debut with a solid superhero film that doesn’t stand out from the pack but will certainly entertain the little ones on a drizzly weekend.
It's 1969 and we're introduced to Buddy (Nick Frost), an excitable anthropomorphic dog who is being sent into space by his beloved owner, Dave. The craft malfunctions, mutating Buddy’s DNA; frozen in time, he crashes back to earth fifty years later, into a world where animals are persecuted by humans. He is saved by TurboCat (a charismatic Luke Evans), a Batman wannabe complete with gadgets and a robot butler (a perfectly cast Bill Nighy). Buddy wants to find his owner, so he and TurboCat team up with a band of misfit animals, including a militant goldfish and Gemma Arterton’s no nonsense rabbit, Cassidy. Calling themselves G.U.A.R.D, they're all determined to take down animal-hating policeman, Peck, who wants to cage all the strays he encounters due to an injury his daughter suffered when she was a young child.
StarDog and TurboCat is a little low on jokes to start with and fails to grab your attention, but the animation is chunky and colourful, which will keep you invested until more characters are introduced and the plot develops. It slowly becomes clear that writer and director Ben Smith has put a lot of effort into creating a fun and sweet story that gives us a surprise villain, a nice call back to the 1960s, and keeps you guessing if and when Buddy will find Dave.
The move could certainly be more focused - there are a few too many elements thrown into the mix, from a Batman knock-off heist comedy to superhero movie (Buddy discovers superpowers exactly when the plot needs it to happen). TurboCat tries but never reaches the level of Lego Batman, which he feels based on. The jokes generally aren’t funny enough to keep the majority of adults entertained, yet its target demographic - excitable youngsters - will be satisfied and it’s good to see an animation studio based in Sheffield putting an oar in the water. A good entry point, but they haven’t reached the stars yet.