When a master thief enters the life of spy-obsessed, pampered housecat Marnie (Alexandra Neldel), both the overindulged pet and the gang of colourful characters she meets on her adventure are framed for multiple robberies of the local farmers. It’s then up to the group of unlikely friends to prove their innocence by solving the mystery themselves, as well as unpicking some of their own personal problems along the way. This is Spy Cat, the second feature film from Christopher and Wolfgang Lauenstein – who’ve previously won an Oscar for their short film Balance (1989) – and it’s everything you’d expect from a children’s movie with this title. Its vibrant palette and dynamic anthropomorphic heroes will surely entertain the younger audiences towards whom the picture is clearly targeted; but its bland, clichéd storytelling and mindless humour leave little for older viewers.
The first thing that will catch your attention about the film is how impressive the animation is, especially considering the small scale of the project. Colours are bright, the rural setting is appropriately picturesque and a surprising amount of small details have been put into designs to make the characters and world feel more believable. Likewise, there’s evidence of some of the genuine creativity that went into putting the feature together when it comes to some set pieces and one especially inventive wheelchair.
As far as the rest of the movie goes, however, it’s all far too average to be considered unique or interesting. The plot follows many of the same beats we’ve seen countless times before and includes many overused side characters including the bumbling henchmen, lazy police officer and the overweight housewife whose sole purpose is to be the butt of some jokes.
Arguably the biggest issue with the picture is its failure to balance its numerous subplots. By trying to cram too much in there’s not a lot of time left in the already short runtime to make the most out of the central mystery –characters literally conveniently stumble upon every clue. With no real sense of progress, the story comes to an abrupt end before spending time tying up all the loose ends.
Whilst there’s no doubt that its colourful animation and cartoonish humour will keep small children distracted for a time, Spy Cat offers little value to anyone else.
Spy Cat is released in select cinemas on 26th April 2019.
Watch the trailer for Spy Cat here: