Arts

Animated fantasy Ainbo: Spirit Of The Amazon nods more than once to Moana, Avatar and The Lion King

Ainbo: Spirit Of The Amazon: Ainbo and Zumi
Damon Smith

AINBO: SPIRIT OF THE AMAZON (PG, 84 mins) Animation/Adventure/Drama/Comedy. Featuring the voices of Lola Raie, Naomi Serrano, Dino Andrade, Joe Hernandez, Thom Hoffman, Rene Mujica, Yeni Alvarez, Bernardo de Paula, Alejandra Gollas, Susana Ballesteros. Directors: Jose Zelada, Richard Claus.

Released: August 27

A MISUNDERSTOOD teenager embarks on a quest to single-handedly save the Amazonian rainforest and halt mankind's relentless pillaging of Mother Earth in a mystical computer-animated odyssey that nods more than once to Moana, Avatar and The Lion King.

Thus, a tribal chief's daughter faces a strange sickness that threatens her land, the environmentally conscious script's rallying cry against the depletion of our planet's resources echoes James Cameron's box office behemoth and Disney's comical double-act, meerkat Timon and warthog Pumbaa, are mimicked here by a dry-witted armadillo and portly tapir.

The screenwriters' mining operation also scrapes creative inspiration from The Neverending Story.

A benevolent giant turtle in the second half of Ainbo: Spirit Of The Amazon is distractingly similar to Morla, the ancient being in the Swamps Of Sadness, right down to the character reveal, facial features and raspy vocal performance of Susana Ballesteros.

Recycling is certainly on brand with the film's eco-messaging.

The plot is surprisingly tangled and sinewy, unravelling gradually with one satisfying twist withheld by directors Jose Zelada and Richard Claus until a poignant final act that ramps up the mysticism.

Animation boasts pleasing levels of detail and realism, albeit never on a par with the Disney and DreamWorks power plants. Noticeably, the most intricate action sequence is dominated by flat surfaces of hulking metallic machinery in motion.

Thirteen-year-old Ainbo (voiced by Lola Raie) has been raised in Colonia, the deepest jungle of the Amazon, by tribal elder Chuni (Alejandra Gollas). The girl has no firm memories of her mother Lizeni (Yeni Alvarez) and is convinced her parent's spirit lives in a beautiful tree.

Ailing tribal chief Huarinka (Bernardo de Paula) passes leadership to his daughter Zumi (Naomi Serrano), Ainbo's best friend, in the hope that fresh blood can defeat the forest demon Yakuruna and lift a curse that blights the village.

Fierce warrior Atok (Rene Mujica) is convinced that the eponymous orphan is the source of the great malaise.

"Ainbo is the curse!" Atok barks at Zumi shortly after her coronation. He vows to kill Ainbo to restore prosperity.

The girl flees, accompanied by two spirit guides, Dillo the armadillo (Dino Andrade) and Vaca the tapir (Joe Hernandez). They shepherd Ainbo on an epic quest to the lair of giant turtle Motelo Mama (Ballesteros) who "carries the weight of the world on her shell".

Meanwhile, botanist Mr DeWitt (Thom Hoffman) bewitches Zumi to learn the location of precious gold deposits on tribal land.

Ainbo: Spirit Of The Amazon promotes empowered and fiercely independent female protagonists, who defy staunch tradition and patriarchal rule to chart their own destinies.

The script is a gentle introduction to the vital role young audiences can play in defending the environment without belabouring the point.

Positive messaging overrides the lack of a fresh, innovative narrative.

Rating: 2/5

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