Extinct review – doughnut-shaped critters are an evolutionary dead end

Even if you can get over the inherent weirdness of furry little doughnut-shaped creatures with holes in their middles, there’s a lot to puzzle over with this family animation, which manages to be both surreally baffling and wearyingly derivative.

The doughnut creatures are called “flummels”, and they exist on a remote Galápagos island, rolling around like wheels and picking flowers. But the entire species is wiped out in the 19th century, just moments before Charles Darwin arrives to discover them. All except two flummels, that is: brother-and-sister heroes Op and Ed (why those names? Who knows?), voiced by Adam Devine and Rachel Bloom. Cast out by the other flummels for their accident-proneness, Op and Ed are sucked into a mysterious flower that catapults them through to modern-day Shanghai (the film is Chinese-produced). A Chinese professor was researching these time-travelling blooms, it turns out, but then went missing. With some help from the professor’s fluffy white dog (Ken Jeong), Op and Ed end up in some abstract realm, outside of time and space (but essential to the plot), where they are joined by other extinct species on a quest to go back and save their fellow flummels from extinction, and find the professor. Or something.

It’s hard to imagine who will enjoy any of this. The snappy banter and slapstick humour (much of it hole-related) might amuse younger viewers, but the convoluted time-travel plot will be far too confusing for them. It’s confusing for older viewers, too, added to which the arbitrariness and illogic become grating (the flummels have never seen a dog before, for example, but they know what cats are – how?); the plasticky, low-fi animation is several notches below Pixar standard. A lot of the characters look like knock-offs from other movies, in fact: the dinosaur from Toy Story, the mammals from Ice Age, the bird from Up and so on. In the Darwinian world of kids’ entertainment, Extinct looks like an evolutionary dead end.

Extinct is available on Sky Cinema from 20 August.

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