With the constant stream of animated film releases each year, Spycies is likely one that will be quickly forgotten.
Spycies, a Chinese-French co-production from iQiyi, feels very ‘seen it all before’. The animated film follows Vladimir (a cat) and Hector (a rat), two secret agents paired up to save the world when dangerous radioactive material is stolen from a lab – forcing them into an undercover mission.
Though the premise sounds okay for a children’s story, the execution is not quite up to scratch. For starters, the style of animation seems a little incongruous at times, with frames often appearing to look like a result of bad photoshopping due to the characters and backgrounds not merging very well. In the moments where they do manage to blend, the animation is actually decently detailed – particularly in features such as Vladimir’s fur and eyes.
Narrative is definitely Spycies‘ greatest flaw. Comparing the film to Zootropolis, it is evident that certain aspects of storyline may have been inspired by this Disney hit. For instance, an overarching theme is that animals keep turning ill and becoming extinct – sound familiar? Replace extinction with going crazy, and you pretty much have Zootropolis‘ plot line. It is revealed towards the end of Spycies that a mammoth extinction was the result of an “accident on Mammoth Island” – the ‘X1 Experiment’ to save the mammoths gone wrong. Obviously, this causes Vlad’s boss (a mammoth) to go on a freeze-gun rampage, seeking vengeance for the pain he has suffered after losing his family.
However, one thing that makes Spycies potentially redeemable is some of its extremely weird moments. In one particular scene, we see a snake drink coffee, which magically transforms him into a fire-breathing dragon. Though the randomness of this scene had me wondering if someone had put something in my drink, seeing a fire-breathing dragon fly about the place certainly grabs your attention.
Despite the trite character tropes (a moody, “I always work alone” cool guy protagonist, paired with a nerdy isolated weirdo), Spycies does manage to put its own take on these over-familiar archetypes. From the hallucinogenic dragon scene, to a mammoth running about with a freeze gun, right up to its topical message about the threat of global warming, Spycies doesn’t do too bad a job at simple entertainment. Judging it as a film for children, this obviously being its intended audience, I would say that most would be kept amused throughout. Though it doesn’t rank anywhere near the output of Pixar or DreamWorks, Spycies will at least keep the little ones entertained for an hour and a half.
Spycies, directed by Guillaume Ivernel and Zhiyi Zhang, is distributed in the UK by Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment, certificate PG.