Monday, January 30, 2006

Zodiac: The Race Begins

My new year resolution is to watch every made-in-Singapore commercial movie that hits the big screen. Nearly accomplished that last year, except that the chicken in me made me miss The Maid during the lunar seventh month. But somehow alarm bells were already ringing about Zodiac, touted as Singapore's first 3D animated movie.

Since it's the first, perhaps it's expected we go with expectations set real low? Check. But it's really, not good. The animation is rather coarse (ok, so you're telling me we cannot compare with Pixar?), and looks like it's straight out of a bad blocky videogame. There are certain sequences that looked like a cheap ripoff of old puppetry techniques, though I'd like to think of it as an excuse that the filmmakers were being lazy, or in a rush to finish this in time for the lunar new year.

Too many "flipping-of-the-pages", and a narration voice over, to cover up the fact that the storyline is relatively weak. Most of us would already know that it was a race to decide the order of the animals in the Chinese Zodiac, but this was a race that lacked one crucial ingredient - excitement! The pace is pretty much flat, with no highs or lows (more lows actually) to bring the audience into the race proper.

The much touted voice of Fann Wong playing two characters - the cat and the snake, will make you cringe. Most of the voices are rather scratchy and sound amateurish, not to mention that the animated mouths don't sync too. Given 12 key characters, a heavenly king and a tree demon, there is a distinct lack of voice talents required. The characters too are pretty weak, having the focus only on the rat and the bull, while the others are pretty much forgotten and disposable. It doesn't help by swinging the focus between groups of characters, and the villain is probably the weakest link which poses no threat.

I wonder who did the subtitles, as it had loads of typographical and grammatical errors. And I was surprised too that this movie actually had an English track, recorded by local DJ Jamie Yeo, and some unrecognizable others from the credits. Songs are part and parcel of animated movies, but this one had really cringeworthy songs, meaningless lyrics and having characters break into song and dance, for the sake of doing so.

Is this a decent effort? I'm not sure, given the slip-shoddy execution. But if this movie could open doors for any up and coming budding animation company, then they have a relatively easy job of raising the bar.

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