Inspector Sun is a very odd animated movie. It spoofs Charlie Chan/Hercule Poirot-type murder mysteries. That’s not exactly a hip concept to the child viewers it’s aimed at. Making the characters bugs and tossing in occasional comic mayhem helps it become slightly more palatable for them, but the reality is that there’s too much spoofery to satisfy the kids and too much silliness to hold the attention of adults.
The title character is a spider detective voiced by Ronny Chieng. Deciding to take a vacation, he hops aboard a sea plane bound for San Francisco. The whole idea of rest and relaxation is cut short when a murder takes place aboard that plane. Sun’s sleuthing instincts kick in, and before long he finds the slaying has ties to his archnemesis, the villainous Red Locust (Rich Orlow). He’s incarcerated, though, so that adds a layer of intrigue.
Directed by Julio Soto Gurpide, Inspector Sun’s storytelling is fundamentally wonky. The first act, which should introduce us to the characters and establish their world, is inexplicably rushed. We’re left scrambling to figure out who everyone is and how they’re connected. It’s sloppy. The second act picks up considerably, with Sun starting to pursue leads. Watching him interact with traditional murder mystery archetypes like the “femme fatale” is entertaining. The best scene has him venturing into a part of the plane controlled by ants that swarm around him, lifting him up to see their queen.
Things go off the rails again during the last section. Sun solves the mystery a little more than an hour into the movie. Then we get what is essentially a twenty-minute slapstick action sequence where Sun and the Red Locust do battle. The appeal of murder mysteries is having the central detective assemble all the suspects in one room, then give a detailed explanation of how the pieces fit together to reveal the culprit. We’re given that climactic moment prematurely so that there can be a sudden overdose of conventional animated lunacy. In other words, the film peaks way too early.
These issues might not have mattered if the screenplay was as witty at the beginning and end as it is in the middle, or if the animation was richer and more detailed. This is not in the same class as a Pixar or DreamWorks Animation production. Despite some undeniably pleasing elements, Inspector Sun doesn’t feel like it was made with the sort of extreme care those companies pour into their work. It’s fine, just nothing special.
out of four
Inspector Sun is rated PG for action and some suggestive material. The running time is 1 hour and 28 minutes.