Zip & Zap And The Marble Gang


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Zip & Zap And The Marble Gang
"It's a well constructed, well paced, well made film, but it's poised and polished and professional where one might hope for something a bit more ramshackle, a mite more rebellious."

Zip & Zap And The Marble Gang is a visually lush children's adventure movie that benefits from good performances and confident direction, well executed effects sequences and no small measure of humour. It's also loosely based on Spanish cult comic Zip & Zap, and that's probably the biggest strike against it.

Firstly, it's a children's film in a foreign language; it's a good one, albeit pretty solidly traditional, with a core cadre of kids that includes Zip, Zap, a smart one in the form of Micro, a bumbler with an appetite in the form of Filo, and a token girl, Matilde. Secondly it's only loosely based on Zip & Zap, a mischevious due who take their name from a Spanish cognate for chaos; Filo, Micro, and Matilde are all apparently inventions from the four credited writers (including director Oskar Santos) who aren't original creator Jose Escobar. Thirdly, and perhaps most tellingly, while it is an excellent and entertaining children's film it does nothing new, just well.

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Once the Marble Gang are formed their quest owes a heavy debt to the Harry Potter octet, to Goonies, indeed to every movie that's had a bespectacled science kid and a bad guy with an eyepatch. The locations and production design are good - the private school they're sent to for unseen misdemeanours is an Iberian Hogwarts, all marble and balustrades and mystery, and the mechanisms of misbehaviour and adventure are crisply realised.

The dining hall scenes in particular recall various Potter outings, but there are more similarities to Chamber Of Secrets than any others. The credits borrow from elsewhere the old "pages being turned in a book become the film we see" but set them among a sequence made of the detritus of childhood, jacks and dice and comics and interesting stones and all that stuff.

Stuff that, as we learn, is banned at the institution. Run by the imperious Falconetti, played with a cackling glee just short of pantomime by Javier Gutierrez, guarded by blue-shirted goons (called "Smurfs" by the students) including the ironically named Heidi (Christian Mulas) and his dog 'Shark', a school predicated upon the notion that "play breeds foolishness, and work breeds righteousness".

Personifying the latter are Paul Rivas (Zipi, the blonde one), Daniel Cerezo (Zape, the black-haired one), Fran Garcia as cake-distracted Filo, Marcos Ruiz as Micro (from Microbe), and Claudie Vega as Matilde, the tomboy. Their schemes start small, are held back from excess ("next we poison the water!"), and one can't imagine it would surprise any prospective audience to know that good triumphs.

For every bit of reasonable invention, like the stuttering gym teacher's greeting to the headmaster becoming a marching song, there's a lazy trope - fat kid as comic relief goes back to the Little Rascals. In fairness Micro's photographic memory is beautifully presented, and the Marble Gang's logo is B for Brilliant. It's a well constructed, well paced, well made film, but it's poised and polished and professional where one might hope for something a bit more ramshackle, a mite more rebellious. It works though - splendid to look at, if nothing else it should make regular appearances on televisions wheeled into classrooms.

Reviewed on: 21 Jun 2014
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A group of kids rebel against strict rules at their school.
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Director: Oskar Santos

Writer: Moisés Gómez Ramos, Jorge Lara, Francisco Roncal, Oskar Santos

Starring: Javier Gutiérrez, Álex Angulo, Claudia Vega, Christian Mulas, Joseba Apaolaza, Marcos Ruiz, Alberto López, Santi Ugalde, Javier Cifrián, Daniel Cerezo, Iñake Irastorza, Raúl Rivas, Fran García, Juan González

Year: 2013

Runtime: 106 minutes

Country: Spain

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