Danny (voiced by Jamie Bell) is a smart young boy and an inventor. When judges at a school competition ignore his latest stunning and brilliant nanobot invention, Danny is naturally disappointed. Soon he is approached by Miss Evans, the principal at Cranston Academy, who admires his abilities, smarts and skills. Danny is given a personal invitation and a full scholarship to join the secret boarding school for geniuses, which he accepts.
As Danny begins his new life at Cranston, he struggles to fit in and get along with peers, including his primary classroom teacher, who is quite antagonistic toward him. Danny gets to sit next to a young girl named Liz (Ruby Rose) during class, who is also his roommate at Cranston. Sadly, he leaves a poor first impression on her when he breaks one of her inventions. Soon Danny hears word that the school has an old atomic reactor that is no longer working. Danny is told that no one has ever been successful at repairing the unit, so he takes it upon himself to impress his teachers by trying to fix it himself. Danny is successful, but he unexpectedly unlocks a portal from another dimension, and now monsters roam around Cranston Academy, causing chaos. Now it’s up to Danny, Liz and the stranger who calls himself Moth-Man. He’s half-moth, half-man, and together, all three of them will save the Academy and the entire world.
Cranston School is fun, with many characters and creative ideas around inventions. I was excited to hear Jamie Bell and Ruby Rose, but sadly, nothing is outstanding about the voice work done for this film other than the voice of the random four-arm creature, Moth-Man. Jamie Bell and Ruby Rose are almost unrecognisable, which sounds positive, but it wasn’t.
The animation style is filled with lovely colours, and naturally, with a film that includes monsters, there’s some excellent creativity in the creature designs. Unfortunately, this is also a bland-looking film. While creative and bright, the animation looks of a lower quality, including for the leading characters of Danny and Liz. The movements of the characters also look slightly off. The characters are reasonably cheesy, with Danny delivering many one-liners that overstay their welcome very quickly.
As a family feature film, I was somewhat surprised by the animated violence and specific words used throughout the film. One example of this is when we see a large, mutated chick (as in baby chicken) eat a cow, and the people around this situation brush it off. This is not your typical family film. At times, I felt the movie was generally unsure who its audience was, with a combination of childish jokes and more adult shock value content such as using the word ‘bloody’ by key characters. The film also fails to deliver resolutions and consequences. Instead, the characters never learn from their mistake or wrongdoings (again, I’m still getting over a giant chicken eating a cow and no one caring about it).
Overall, with some attempts of fun creativity relating to monsters and inventions, bright colour will attract some young audiences for sure. But make no mistake, this is generally a disappointing animation film. With bland visuals, this film struggles to understand who it’s been made for, using unusual humour relating to animated violence and childish one-liners. As the credits rolled, I’m unsure if this is best suited for young teens or young kids, or perhaps neither, and that’s not a good sign. However, those who enjoy basic animations about the topic of monsters, inventions, witty one-liners, mutants, sci-fi and Mexican references will have some moments of joy here. Cranston Academy: Monster Zone (2020) is Now Available on DVD!