BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Companies such as Disney, Warner Bros and DreamWorks have been the titans of animation for decades. Despite their big shadows, there occasionally is a film that comes along by a smaller company that is just as visually stunning and entertaining as any offering from one of the big three.
The latest example is “Inspector Sun” from Kapers Animation, an England-based company. The whimsical animated film will be available in local theaters starting Oct. 27.
If you have a fear of insects, be warned as “Inspector Sun” dives deep into the world of creepy, crawly creatures. Inspector Sun (voiced by Ronnie Chieng) is a spider whose job as a detective ends when his latest mission goes badly. He looks to escape from the pain by boarding a seemingly normal seaplane for a much-needed vacation.
What Inspector Sun discovers is that crime stops for no insect.
Passenger Dr. Spindlethorp (Vicente Gil) receives a threat to his life and that puts Sun on the case. Trapped in a web of lies, Sun must find his suspect before it’s too late.
The story unfolds during the 1930’s aboard a Pan Am Clipper seaplane making a flight between Shanghai and San Francisco. Hidden away from the human world are the first-class accommodations for the creepy crawlies on the plane.
When Spindlethorp is murdered it leaves his beautiful wife Arabella (Jennifer Childs Greer) as a widowed Black Widow. Hard‐boiled Inspector Sun – with some much needed help from his young apprentice Janey (Emily Kleimo) – begins an investigation into the crime. This leads to a variety of suspects representing a variety of bugs.
This is not the first time an animated film has used insects as both “A Bug’s Life” and “Antz” took that approach. Where director Julio Soto Gúrpide makes his film standout more is by putting his insect cast in a very real setting.
The flying hotel is both a posh place for humans and insects. The art deco design coupled with a saturation of brilliant color gives the entire film a deep lush feel. The beautiful use of color is accented by the clever way Gúrpide manages to incorporate flashes of light into a world that would naturally be dark.
This isn’t a film that is merely an explosion of color, but it is so rich and thick one would think large puddles of hues are forming on the floor of the theater. This intensity is both beautiful for older moviegoers and will help keep youngsters engaged.
A stunning look is only half the battle. “Inspector Sun” also works because of clever writing. The script by Rocco Pucillo blends a fun tale of sleuthing with some mature humor.
It starts with Sun designed to be a part Inspector Clouseau and part Hercule Poirot with a touch of “Naked Gin” thrown in for good measure. He often bungles his way through the story filled with countless false tracks, mysterious suspects and a clever plot twist but eventually comes up with the solution.
Sprinkled through the film are a variety of nods to other whodunits including an interrogation in a jail cell that has brushes of “Basic Instinct.” The humor is smart and mature at times but never goes too far.
The main weakness in the project is the voice casting. Generally, the selection of actors to speak for the insects works. But, that is not the case with Chieng as Inspector Sun. The Chinese comedian has neither a voice comical enough to make his performance a parody of past detective works nor strong enough to make him the hero.
Voice casting is critical. A few supporting characters can be weak but the failure to find the right voice for the central character works against what is in general a very solid movie in “Inspector Sun.”
Films from smaller studios often get overlooked because they don’t have massive publicity machines behind them. This is a case where it is important to search out this film as it is a first-rate animated effort because of the stunning look and fun script.
Cast: Ronnie Chieng, Emily Kleimo, Jennifer Childs Greer, Vicente Gil.
Director: Julio Soto Gúrpide
Rated: PG for action, suggestive material
Running time: 82 minutes.