Producer: Jean-François Tosti   Director: Éric Tosti   Screenplay: David Alaux, Éric Tosti and Jean-François Tosti   Cast: Landen Beattie, Jason Canning, Laura Post and Keith Silverstein   Distributor: Viva Kids

Grade: B-

Originally called “Astro Kid,” this French animated film is aimed at children—especially boys—of, say, ages five to ten, and it should amuse them.  It’s genial, mildly exciting and colorfully drawn, and has a relatable young hero.

The plot is extraordinarily simple.  Young Willy (voiced in this English version by Landen Beattie) is on a space mission with his parents (Laura Post and Keith Silverstein) collecting data on unexplored planets.  When their ship begins to fall apart and he’s trapped below deck, they advise him from the bridge to get away in an escape pod.  He does so, landing on a planet accompanied only by the R2-D2-like pod robot Buck (Jason Canning), who acts as his protector when the place proves to be populated by all sorts of weird and unpredictable creatures.

They’re joined before long by a little yellow pig-like critter—think Pokemon’s Pikachu—that becomes Willy’s pet, initially to Buck’s consternation.  But after Flash, as Willy names him, saves the boy’s life when he’s  infected by some sort of plant poison, Buck relents, and after the robot powers down, Flash becomes Willy’s primary partner.

As time passes, Willy follows in his parents; footsteps, cataloguing the life forms he finds on his planet.  He becomes a sort of pint-sized Tarzan, escaping dangers and making friends while experiencing the oddities the place has to offer.  All of this is presented in colorful computer animation that shows a lot of imagination in design even though the character concepts are fairly pedestrian.

“Terra Willy” doesn’t have much forward momentum—it’s basically just a series of episodes that over time take on a fairly predictable pattern.  A bit of energy is introduced toward the close, when the appearance of a search pod requires Willy to go to considerable lengths to get Buck up and running again, and there’s a burst of sentiment as Willy has to leave the now fullyl-grown Flash behind to return to his parents.  But even those elements aren’t overdone; the picture as a whole prefers gentleness to over-excitement, which explains the unforced quality of Jean-Christian Tassy and Hélëne Blanchard’s editing and Olivier Cussac’s music score. 

“Terra Willy” resembles a nice, undemanding movie that might appear on a children’s cable network rather than a Disney blockbuster, but Éric Tosti’s movie, which he also co-wrote with David Alaux and producer Jean-François Tosti, is a pleasant, inoffensive kid’s adventure that should leave its target audience, and their parents, content.