REVIEW

Astro Kid is a slow-paced French-made animation

Astro Kid (G, 89 minutes)

2 stars

As a kid I was an enormous fan of the Japanese anime Astro Boy, the Pinocchio-like tale of an android looking for a sense of family.

My initial excitement that Astro Kid might be some kind of sequel was quickly knocked on the head - this is a French-made animation with more in common with Lost in Space.

A scene from Astro Kid. Picture: Madman

A scene from Astro Kid. Picture: Madman

In fact, its French-language title is the awkward Terra Willy: Plenete Inconnue.

Will (voiced in the English-language version by Landen Beattie) is the 10-year-old son of two interstellar explorers (Laura Post and Keith Silverstein).

His mother may be on his case to be more helpful on their mission but like all kids, Will loves having fun.

Things get decidedly serious when their spaceship is struck by meteors and Will's escape pod separates him from his parents, crashing into an undiscovered planet with robot protector Buck (Jason Anthony).

On their own, with Buck operating a beacon that might hopefully attract a passing satellite that will bring rescue, Will and Buck begin exploring their new world.

They discover new foods, and new creatures including a slug-like creature who adopts Will as his pet, and vice-versa.

They also discover some ferocious rock creatures that destroy their landing craft and separate Buck from his spare power source.

After Buck throws out a power-draining shield that saves Will from a dangerous hail storm, he is forced into power-saving mode leaving the young human alone against an alien planet.

A scene from Astro Kid. Picture: Madman

A scene from Astro Kid. Picture: Madman

There are a handful of science fiction references in the screenplay from director Eric Tosti with writers David Alaux and Jean-Francois Tosti which the grown-ups in the audience will appreciate.

I liked the reference to Matt Damon's The Martian, with broccoli purée replacing potatoes as the boring food source, and the early interactions between Will and the robot Buck play like Picard training Data in human emotions.

The filmmakers have built a film that is about the power of curiosity and invention.

Elements of the plot even feel like the new HBO series Raised By Wolves, through that's far too adult to even mention in a review for a G-rated film.

The young audience will engage the most with Will's anthropomorphic slug who throws up a chrysalis periodically and evolves, much like the Pokemon characters they all love.

Interesting in the end credits is a thank you for the Natural History Museum Tolouse. The filmmakers have built a film that is about the power of curiosity and invention.

The animators have created some fascinating 'what if' other-worldly creatures that are familiar amalgams of crystalline shapes, bugs and beetles, all the kinds of things the imagine might be powered by a visit to a museum.

I loved how the alien beetle and insect-like creatures go about their lives ignorant of the human in their presence, just like they do in real life.

It is also an ongoing lesson in problem-solving - every element along the narrative from Will's hoverboard video game to the plant species he discovers will all be called back later as he learns to fend for himself.

This is a film for the young viewer and will fuel their imaginations, and with enough junior-level comedy so that you grown-ups who will have to take them to the cinema can enjoy that sweet musical sound of children laughing.

The pace of this production is a little lacking, which will be just fine for its intended junior audience, but may leave the older chaperones struggling a little.

This story Enough to engage young brains first appeared on The Canberra Times.