Tempting that it is to make unfavourable comparisons between Enrique Gato’s latest feature and Pixar’s recent Coco, it’s worth noting that the former has been achieved on pittance of the latter’s budget ($6m to $200m) and, despite many weaknesses, you can’t fault the ambition.
The progression of Tadeo Jones from witty BAFTA-winning short to genially derivative feature will have past by the majority of Brits due to the Spanish explorer’s 2012 hit (Spain’s highest grossing animation of all time) never having been released in the UK. Following the homeland success of Tad Jones: The Lost Explorer, the distributers have ambitiously set eyes on global expansion for Tad the Lost Explorer and the Secret of King Midas.
Based loosely on an odd embellishment of the King Midas myth, Tad 2 revolves around the hunt for three medallions, which together make up the legendary collar that gave Midas his ability to turn all he touched to gold. Tad is a construction worker who has, since the age of five, dreamed of being an archaeologist-cum-explorer; he wears an Indiana Jones fedora and the film makes no secret of its pilthering.
The love of Tad’s life – in this fan fiction, the Lara Croft to his Indy – is renowned, bona fide explorer Sara Lavrof. Whilst last time around it seemed as though the pair were all set for a happily ever after, they’ve drifted since and she remains the girl who got away. Thus, when Sara gets kidnapped by a ‘despicable’ millionaire, with eyes set on the collar and ultimate power no-less, Tad jumps at the chance for a rescue mission.
Of course, no self-respecting hero adventures on their own and so Tad’s company is forgettable student Tiffany and ‘the most annoying, irritating, badly dressed sidekick ever’ (genuine quote) Momai, the Egyptian mummy introduced last time around. He has animal pals too, in the form of Tad’s dopey dog and Sara’s whip-smart parrot Belzoni – far and away the best element of the film and complete with Wile E. Coyote-inspired placards.
While there’s slapstick and warmth enough to keep younger audiences satisfied, Tad 2 is a pretty poor effort on the whole. Lame jokes include the over-used Momai getting Elvis lyrics wrong (‘a little less constipation’) and there’s too little fizz to sustain a jolly momentum.
On the other hand, those who did catch Tad Jones: The Lost Explorer will marvel at the huge leaps that have been made by Gato and team since 2012. Stronger rendering and lighting sit alongside some impressive touches of detail.
At best the plot here is mildly diverting half-term fodder, yet I’ve still a fondness for the franchise.