Oskar Santos/2017/Spain/105 mins
Part of the Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival
This sequel to Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang (2013) follows the eponymous brothers on a new adventure involving a remote island and a mysterious mansion. When they are taken along to the island by their parents as punishment for a Christmas-related prank, the boys discover that the mansion where they will be staying is a home for parentless children where no rules apply. However, things aren’t what they seem when the parents mysteriously disappear the next morning, leaving Zip and Zap, along with two strange new friends, to try and uncover the secrets of the island and its inhabitants.
This is a visually inventive kids film that hits all of the required beats – fart gags, elaborate CGI effects, precocious protagonists. At the same time, it does a great job of harkening back to the live-action family films of the 1980s and 1990s such as The Goonies and Casper, as well as Robert Rodriguez’s Spy Kids films of the early noughties, with the comparatively small-scale plot contrasting with the epic size of the Harry Potter series. The film also references Big through its age-swapping subplot, wherein the main villain turns Zip and Zap’s parents into children of the same age. Leading to a somewhat formulaic final message about learning to appreciate your parents, it nonetheless also manages to cleverly reference Back To The Future along the way.
The film also references earlier fantasy films, with the climax involving a battle between a lift-cum-submarine and a robotic octopus borrowed more or less from 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. Director Santos, who also directed the previous film, provides a visually unique approach to exposition in his use of a third act animated flashback detailing the villain’s backstory, which not only contrasts with the saturated colours of the rest of the film but also sets it apart from less imaginative modern-day Hollywood equivalents. With spirited performances from its leads, Zip & Zap and the Captain’s Island is an entertaining Spanish equivalent to films such as Harry Potter that’ll amuse adults as well as kids. The only complaint would be that the villain’s plan, involving various scientific inventions and references to multiple literary characters, may be a little hard to follow for younger viewers.