Tad the Lost Explorer and the Curse of the Mummy review – agreeably jolly animated caper

Only middling writing lets down the impressive-looking third instalment from an upstart Spanish studio, which follows a Chicago bricklayer’s quest to lift an ancient curse

Here is the third entry in a series of modestly budgeted, surprisingly profitable Spanish digimations, shrewdly placed at the end of the summer holidays to capitalise on any waning of interest in Minions and Super-Pets. Parents present for the long haul will have witnessed two stories unfolding, primarily how hapless Chicago bricklayer Tad Stones (dubbed by Kerry Shale first time round, and after by Trevor White) realised his dream of becoming a globetrotting Indiana Jones-like archaeologist.

The new one, however, is more intriguing: a pronounced narrowing of the gap between the American powerhouses who set the CGI bar and the upstart European studios who boosted their rendering capacity as those erstwhile market leaders began cutting corners. Tad’s sweetheart Sara (Alex Kelly) may possess a Disney look so comprehensive that you fear legal intervention, but elsewhere this third instalment’s attention to lighting sources indicates many long hours of poring over laptops. Only middling writing lets it down, lacking both the conceptual heft and the quality and quantity of gags we associate with Pixar at their best.

As the title suggests, we’re following the Howard Carter route this time out, leaving behind the most promising comic idea, namely Tad’s chaotic flat share with Mummy (Joseph Balderrama), an actual and altogether hyper-caffeinated mummy. (Although lame references to dabbing and social media represent an already dated idea of What Kids Like.) Still, the pair’s standard-issue 200mph quest for some curse-lifting doodad sporadically tosses up inventive and dynamic design in its wake: lots of secret doors, artefacts and hieroglyphs to puzzle over, and a fun mid-film chase along the Seine involving a motorised bathtub and an odd-landing Notre-Dame joke. (Too soon, surely.) This is never more than inessential screen filler, but agreeably jolly with it – partly as it does have some idea of how to fill a screen.

  • Tad the Lost Explorer and the Curse of the Mummy is released on 9 September in cinemas.

Contributor

Mike McCahill

The GuardianTramp

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