There’s a concept in the film industry called drafting. It’s a simple but profitable one. Whenever there’s a hugely anticipated blockbuster with a big marketing push, low-budget film companies will rush out a quick, cheap movie that’s sorta kinda similar in title or theme.
The people who make these are betting that their low-budget offering can ride the coattails of the big-budget movie. They put them out hoping some harried movie purchaser will decide “Meh, close enough,” and buy or stream their movie because it’s cheaper or easier to get; or that they’ll trick the most gullible into thinking they’re getting the big budget project, or at least something related.
The people who buy these products are almost always in for a big disappointment, because a successful drafting strategy need go no farther than a similar name and a deceptive box. The movie on the DVD could be anything.
So, no, Kiara the Brave, a CGI film from the Indian studio Shemaroo, doesn’t feature any beautiful action in the Scottish highlands. There is no touching mother-daughter relationship (we never see Kiara’s mother, and we see her people reproduce asexually at least once, so who knows). There aren’t even any bears.
Most importantly, Kiara, the red-haired princess on the box, is a relatively minor character in this movie. She doesn’t do much and she isn’t particularly brave, and her only heroic act is when she conks a bad guy on the head and someone calls her “gutsy.” I don’t think “Kiara the Gutsy” would have moved many DVDs.
The movie is actually about Super Kloud, a kid superhero who fights the evil that threatens his home of Dreamzone with “kid power,” and it was originally released in 2011 as Super K. The Shemaroo staff that worked on Kiara the Brave obviously watched way more Dragon Ball Z than Pixar. Super Kloud is like Goku with weather powers; there’s a lot of flying around and people getting blasted with beams and balls of energy. Princess Kiara is there to cheer Super Kloud on and be held hostage.
The plot of this movie is based around a simple environmental metaphor. There is a place called Dreamzone that is home to magical people called Klouds. If I understand it correctly, these creatures are responsible for the weather on the earth. They are under attack by a bad guy named Dr. Ozox and his CFC Warriors. Is that an obvious enough reference to ozone depletion? If it’s not, Dr. Ozox takes a moment to explain that his CFC Warriors are created by helpful Earthlings.
The whole thing is presented with a framing sequence with the characters being watched over by the planets of the solar system and Destiny, who looks like Glenda the Good Witch or an old crone depending on her mood. The planets have faces and ethnic stereotype personalities and move around. It’s quite unnerving.
There’s an evil magician named Dreadmis, who wants to take over the Dreamzone from his brother King Maximus, Kiara’s father. He asks for Destiny’s help and she gives him a plan, but she screws him over by leaving out an important detail.
You see, Dreadmis follows Destiny’s plan, but forgets that he suffers from that ailment common to most powerful cartoon villains, Incompetent Henchmen Syndrome. Dreadmis’ henchmen, two shrill, lizardy things called Accidentally and Suddenly, are stupid even by the low standards of incompetent cartoon henchmen, and mess up Dreadmis’ formula so that his plan to create a powerful warrior Kloud instead creates the baby Super Kloud, who has amazing weather powers but is barely in control of them.
Dreadmis tells the henchmen to take Super Kloud to the forest and kill him: a time- honored cartoon-villain plan. But instead they think he might be the ticket to becoming king themselves, because he barfs up a gem. The gem barfing never happens or is referenced again, but they still raise him to pre-teen age like a married couple.
And so Super Kloud’s unpredictable powers make him an outsider alienated from all of the other Klouds, who have better control over their less-impressive weather powers. You expect him to break into a sad song about why he’s such a misfit, but this movie is too cheap to have the characters sing songs, and the closest we get is a two-headed dragon that speaks some of its lines in the most horrible warble you’ve ever heard, and the rest in the worst rap imaginable.
Things look up, though, when he meets Kiara and starts to make friends with some kid Kouds. But Dreadmis hasn’t given up on his evil ways and still plans to take over the world, forming an alliance with Dr. Ozox and his CFC warriors.
Although the evil duo easily defeat the king, the King’s wizard Mesmorizor, and all of the king’s warriors, Super Kloud and about a dozen kids are able to beat them on their own by believing in themselves, repeatedly chanting “Kid Power,” and kicking the crap out of people with energy beams and punches. Kiara does not help, unless you count cheerleading from the sidelines.
And then there’s a happy ending where Dreadmis turns out to be not so bad and accepts Super Kloud as his son, and Accidentally and Suddenly say something stupid but not actually funny, and everyone laughs like it’s an episode of the Thundercats. The last few minutes are filled by a music video for the rockin’ 80s-sounding song “Super K” to hammer home the movie’s true origins.
It’s a simple plot, but Shemaroo has nearly a full 90 minutes to fill here, so characters kill time by talking slowly, over-explaining everything that happens, and engaging in inane slapstick and pointless hijinks. There is one character, Arbit, the son of Destiny, who seems completely unnecessary to the plot but shows up throughout the movie in various costumes to interfere and puke flowers at the bad guys. I recognized his Jack Sparrow costume and his Harry Potter costume, but he also dresses like a Mexican gang member and a couple of other things I’m at a loss to explain.
The story isn’t funny or exciting enough for even very small or stupid children. The morals are odd and all over the place, including “Kid Power,” “You can’t beat destiny,” “Believe in yourself,” and “Just because you’re a freak, it doesn’t mean you have to be a monster.”
The voice acting is quite bad, with more emphasis placed on enunciating than sounding like conversational dialogue. And the CGI is of course very cheaply done. For the most part it looks like a cut-scene in an early PlayStation game, although some of the environments and buildings, most notably some of the castles, have such rough textures they look like parts of early PlayStation levels. Character models move jerkily and are repeated in crowd scenes in a very obvious way, so you’ll often see a soldier standing a foot or two away from his twin.
I’m sure that if Pixar doesn’t actually have a child psychologist on staff, it at least has writers and directors who know enough to make sure that their movies don’t have elements that might seriously disturb children or be inappropriate. Shemaroo apparently does not. Words like freak, kill, and monster get thrown around with a frequency that can’t be psychologically healthy; the kids torture and threaten to kill one CFC Warrior; and there’s a scene where Super Kloud rescues Kiara after her castle is stormed where every surface seems to be covered with blood splatter, implying a massive slaughter.
So, no, don’t buy this for your kids, even if they insist it’s the “real movie” and cry. Even if you have to sit down in the middle of the store and explain the concept of drafting to them in a way they can understand.
And don’t buy this if you like good movies. Or even “so bad they’re good” movies. This is just bad.
But for the morbidly curious and people with high tolerances for weird things, it does hold some charms. Some of the character and environment designs are interesting to look at. And the story is so strange it’s like a communication from an alien culture. I have to say that I kind of enjoyed it just for its alienness. If you’re really brave, or let’s just say gutsy, and want a look into the weird world of drafting, give it a try.