Bafflingly, this dull animated adventure with an Earth-hugging eco message has picked an impending ice age as the extreme weather event threatening its world with extinction – despite being made in Australia, a country heating faster than the global average. Explain that to the target preschool audience. Still, the fact that the movie’s adorable cartoon animals, with their big, sparkly eyes and neon-bright fur, look as if they’ve been drawn for maximum merchandise spin-off potential, its environmental credentials might not be all that after all.
The hero here is actually pretty decent, a rebellious possum called Kerry. Refreshingly, the script doesn’t overdo it with girl empowerment or constantly signal her feistiness. She’s just a rough-and-tumble possum living with her dad and sister in the vegan utopia of Sanctuary City. Long ago, citizens made a pact to coexist in harmony without eating each other, no matter how yummy they looked. But Kerry dreams of adventure in the place beyond the city, known as the Wild. Impulsively, she picks the last seed from the mythical Wish Tree, which somehow triggers an apocalyptic ice storm.
The trouble is that, as Kerry sets out to save the city, there isn’t much in the way of adventure, and the animation is pretty cheap-looking. Little ones will probably enjoy the poo jokes. There are a couple of nice moments, most of them featuring an army of evil tiny bears with deadly ninja moves. Ross Noble livens things up as the voice of ancient lizard Yarra, the city’s spiritual leader, a kind of crackpot sage – but the character owes a big debt to The Lion King’s shaman Rafiki. This movie makes Disney’s look as if it was scripted by Mark Twain.
• The Wishmas Tree is available on digital platforms.