The Bottom Line
This could be the film that sends the irresistible cult penguin Pororo racing around the world.
Hong Kong Filmart
In Kyun Lee, Eun Sook Kim
Though is aimed mainly at pre-schoolers (one of the main characters is little more than an infant), parents should have no problem enjoying the snowy, fast-paced ice show from top South Korean animation house Iconix Entertainment. This 3D feature from the studio of animator Choi Jong-Il has chalked up one million admissions domestically since its release in January and has sold globally, with a U.S. release by Grindstone Entertainment in the final stages of negotiation.
The TV show has been around since 2003 and now airs in more than 80 countries from Brazil to the Middle East, but it will be the first time Choi’s little penguin breaks into the U.S. market.
The secret of the franchise lies in its utter simplicity and lack of sermonizing. The characters are young animal friends who live somewhere in the far North with no parents in sight, and just wanna have fun. In his yellow racing helmet and googles, the little penguin Pororo is not so much their leader as the most determined to drive his motorized sleigh in a big race and become a champion.
Opportunity presents itself when the cargo plane flown by pilots Toto and Mango, the delivery turtles, is forced down with engine trouble. While their friend Eddy the inventor-fox works on the plane, the kids mistake bragging Toto for a racing champ and beg him to train them. They then jump in their sleighs and hitch a ride through the air, Santa Claus style, to a snow-bound city sparkling with lights, where the annual Super Sleigh Race will be held.
Pororo and his team are the youngest contenders to qualify; the noble White Tigers are the returning winners and favored also this year. Adding a sinister note are the evil Brown Bears, whose dirty tricks have gotten them disqualified in the past and who are determined to wrest the cup from the Tigers. Even a toddler can guess who wins.
The race is obviously a howdunnit but still manages to be suspenseful, imaginative and exhilarating. When Petty, a girl version of Pororo, gets left behind, Crong the baby dinosaur bravely leaps into the jet-propelled sleigh whizzing over the ice course to navigate for Pororo. They race along the treacherous course through ice caves and avalanches, not forgetting Toto’s lesson that they should never take advantage of an adversary in trouble.
The design favors bright nursery room colors and has a busy look, while the little heroes look soft and squishy like stuffed animals. None of the characters are adults in disguise; all have children’s direct emotional responses and quick recovery times. The youngest one, green dinosaur Crong, reacts to the world like a curious baby. It’s a little surprising that the two girls, Petty and Loopy, play such passive secondary roles. Loopy is a timid worrywart and Petty gets bumped out of the race early on.
Director and digital editor Young-Kyun Park keeps the story simple and good-hearted and the action fast-paced, with the help of Jae Hak Lee’s foot-tapping score.