A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Spark: A Space Tail is an animated adventure about a 13-year-old monkey named Spark (voiced by Jace Norman) who ends up having to save an entire space kingdom from an evil space lord. There's some peril and cartoonish violence that includes space weapons, explosions, and characters being sucked into a black/worm hole. A group of violent space bugs threaten Spark who kills the queen bug. But all ends well for the main characters, so younger kids shouldn't be too upset. There's a bit of rude/insult language ("loser," "time to kick some as...teroid," banana breath," etc.), and one character asks another for a kiss. The film promotes teamwork, friendship, and communication, though it also makes jokes around the idea that someone short/small might feel inadequate because of their height.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
SPARK: A SPACE TAIL starts off with a sad prologue about how evil space monkey Zhong (voiced by A.C. Peterson) usurped his brother by trapping an ancient space beast called the Kracken, which destroyed part of the kingdom of Bana by sucking it into a black hole. Thirteen years later, one of that long-ago catastrophe's sole survivors, Spark (Jace Norman), turns 13 on an abandoned offshoot of Bana that's used for trash disposal. Spark lives with two guardians, a fox pilot named Vix (Jessica Biel) and a pig mechanic/engineer named Chunk (Rob deLeeuw). Spark wants to accompany Vix and Chunk on their mysterious missions to Bana, but they think he's too young. Trying to prove he's ready, Spark intercepts a secret plea to smuggle something off of Zhong's space warship, but he ends up making matters much worse. With Vix and Chunk's help, Spark must lead a group of allies to defeat Zhong if Bana is to have any chance at peace.
Is it any good?
Although kids will surely enjoy this harmless space adventure, adults will likely be bored, distracted by the many borrowed elements from far better stories about young heroes. Every aspect of Spark: A Space Tail is reminiscent of another movie. There's Spark's hidden identity and special mark, a la Harry Potter, as well as Zhong's inadequacy compared to his deceased brother, whose death he caused (think Scar from The Lion King). And there's a moment when Spark communicates with his dead father that seems straight out of Star Wars (or Harry Potter or The Lion King). Basically, everything here is something older viewers have seen before, likely in a movie that was far more memorable.
On the bright side, Spark: A Space Tail does have positive messages about teamwork and not doing something before you think about the possible consequences. It also conveys the empowering idea that even one teenager can make a difference. But, let's face it, those ideas are somewhat buried beneath a bunch of silly animal jokes, including an ongoing height gag about Napoleonic Zhong wanting to be seen as taller and more imposing. Still, if you don't mind overly familiar storylines, this comedy is generally appropriate for single-digit-aged kids.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the messages in Spark: A Space Tail. What does Spark learn about acting first, without asking for help? Is he a role model?
- In theaters: April 14, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: July 11, 2017
- Cast: Jace Norman, Jessica Biel, Patrick Stewart
- Director: Aaron Woodley
- Studio: Open Road Films
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Space and Aliens, Wild Animals
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some action and rude humor
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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