It is refreshing to see that, within the digital animation blitz, some things remain resolutely old-fashioned. At one point in this Chinese animated blockbuster, the eighth film spin-off from a popular kids’ TV cartoon series, lead character Bramble (Joseph S Lambert) dresses up as a sexy lady, Bugs Bunny-style, as a diversion. And with his penchant for frequent snack breaks, this lovable lummox – who for obscure reasons lives with another bear, two monkeys and one human in the forest of Bear Ridge – resembles no one so much as the equally gluttonous Yogi Bear.
Bramble winds up becoming smarter than your average bear when he tampers with a cuboid alien artefact that crash-lands in the woods and downloads hidden capabilities into his brain. But it belongs to Avi (Sara Secora), a blue, six-eared feline in a nanotech suit who is trying to recover her spacecraft. A member of the Rhyotan race who used to inhabit Earth, her knowledge of souped-up tech attracts the attention of Mrs Cruz, a slinky, manicured arms dealer, and her David Gest-lookalike husband, who are hoping to lay hands on an alien war machine.
There’s something almost aggressively generic about Boonie Bears: Back to Earth, from the eruption of morphing Transformers-style gizmos, to character models that seem to have been leased from Kung Fu Panda, to the Sonic-esque Avi. But if that means the repartee between Bramble and Avi is mostly standard-issue smart-alec quippery, and the character arcs unfailingly bend towards the mawkish, the frenzied borrowing means Huida Lin’s film is not short on inspiration while in motion – which is most of the time. The kineticism and detail on show are a match for Pixar, ramped up by a satisfying anime sense of overkill, from a ridiculous flotilla of missiles launched by Mrs Cruz to a minion song and dance number.
Turning Red was the latest western animation eyeing up Asian audiences with its cultural leanings, but there’s enough competence on show in this globalist mishmash to suggest the traffic might one day move in the other direction. And bits of the comedy here – like the pair of scrap dealers prone to breaking out in mournful matouqin when their luck turns bad – feels genuinely Chinese. Boonie Bears is an incoherent splurge, but it’s moving in the right direction.
• Boonie Bears: Back to Earth is released in cinemas on 27 May.