Review: Adventures in Zambezia

The abundance of animated offerings that now grace cinema screens brings a wider variety of content; however a greater propensity for averageness also complements the increased output. No longer are theatrical releases the sole domain of Disney or Pixar, but similarly, no longer are all films in theatres of the standard of the famed studios. It is within this environment that Triggerfish Animation Studios’ Adventures in Zambezia emerges, a sadly unremarkable example of the medium despite its penchant for familiar components.

In director Wayne Thornley’s debut feature, all the expected elements align: animals are anthropomorphised to comprise the film’s characters, a celebrity cast provides key voices, and a journey of discovery espouses feel-good, family-friendly morals. The ten-strong contingent of writers – including the helmer and primary scribes Andrew Cook, Raffaella Delle Donne and Anthony Silverston, alongside a script editor and consultant, and pairs of creative developers and additional contributors – stick to the obvious in enlivening their protagonists and the corresponding predicament, with the film a standard assemblage of quirky dialogue and attempted amusing moments.

The slight storyline focuses on Kai (Jeremy Suarez, Extreme Movie), a fledgling falcon living with his father, Tendai (Samuel L. Jackson, Django Unchained), in the remote Katungu desert. Kai wishes to spread his wings beyond their isolated wasteland, but Tendai disapproves; when the former hears of the colourful utopia of Zambezia, the latter is unable to halt his adventure. Alone in his new surroundings, Kai joins the city’s protective unit, encouraged by friends Zoe (Abigail Breslin, New Year’s Eve) and Ezee (Jamal Mixon, Paul Blart: Mall Cop). Alas, a contingent of marabou and lizards stalk Zambezia, putting Kai and his fellow inhabitants in jeopardy.

In an endeavour to litter the film with recognisable talent, Adventures in Zambezia is overly reliant upon words to convey the rollercoaster of obvious comedy and emotional drama, giving the aforementioned actors and fellow cast members Leonard Nimoy (Transformers: Dark of the Moon), Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park 3D) and Richard E. Grant (Kath & Kimderella) plenty to say. Unfortunately, the outcome proves cluttered and clunky, with too many characters simply getting in the way.

Yet, the emphasis on sound over vision may be by design, for the accompanying animation is far from spectacular. A plethora of other efforts have demonstrated the aesthetic potential of feathered friends in full flight (Rio, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole and Valiant among them); however with Adventures in Zambezia is left lacking in the CGI department. Instead, the film resembles a brightly-coloured video game more than cinematic fare, with its 3D rendering far from necessary. Plodding pacing, even with a 83 minute running time, only compounds the inconsistencies of a well-meaning but disappointing offering.

 

 

 

Adventures in Zambezia was released in Queensland, Australia on March 28th, with other states to follow.

Director: Wayne Thornley

Starring: Jeremy Suarez, Abigail Breslin and Samuel L. Jackson

 

About Sarah Ward

Sarah Ward has been enthralled by film for as long as she can remember, and possibly longer than that. A compulsive consumer of all things movie-related, the Brisbane-based freelance film critic, writer and festival devotee spends her days obsessing over film festivals, and her evenings critiquing the latest cinema releases, with her written contributions popping up at Arts Hub, At The Cinema, KOFFIA, the Spanish Film Festival and Trespass, of course. She also dabbles on her own site (http://www.playslashpause.com/) and tweets at @swardplay.