The film is set in Shanghai in 1934 and follows the story of Inspector Sun (played by Ronny Chieng), a brilliant and confident huntsman spider. Inspector Sun is known for working alone, and when we meet him, he has been tasked with solving the ultimate unsolved case – the hunt for the Red Locust. Initially, he hopes to make the arrest single-handedly, but things don’t go according to plan. When he meets with his fellow officers, who are also spiders, an arrest is made following a large explosion that endangers many lives. Sadly, due to circumstances beyond his control, Inspector Sun is forced to hand in his badge and go on leave.
Heading to San Francisco, he misses his flight due to being distracted by a long-term fan. Fortunately, someone he knows offers him an alternate way aboard a large seaplane. Falsely claiming to those aboard that he’s on a top-secret mission when it’s just a holiday, Inspector Sun’s plans soon turn for the worse. While on the plane, Sun is approached by another passenger who reveals that his life is in danger and that he has been receiving threatening letters. The passenger offers Sun a large sum of money to protect him, but Sun dismisses it as nonsense. When a murder occurs aboard, Sun must investigate the killer’s identity.
Inspector Sun and the Curse of the Black Widow is an animated film best suited for family audiences; however, the presence of dark themes and creepy creatures may not be appropriate for younger children. Additionally, the film contains a murder taking place. The director of the film is Julio Soto Gúrpide. The concept and storyline of the film feel heavily inspired by titles such as Murder on the Orient Express or Death on the Nile, in which the great detective Poirot investigates a crime. However, this film attempts to add humour and randomness to the story.
One of the positive aspects of this film is the world it presents. Despite not being visible to the humans in the movie, the animals have created a miniature society. The creatures appearing throughout the film, such as Inspector Sun- a huntsman who enjoys hunting for killers alone- as well as roaches, flies, ants, and others, are also amusing. Ronny Chieng’s voice work is excellent, with his fast-talking pace and cheesy gags being welcoming. The first act is fantastic, creating a fun mystery and introducing many characters and potential suspects around Inspector Sun.
Although the movie is a crime story, it is challenging for viewers to determine who is responsible for the murder. The film seems erratic, inventing its plot at every twist and turn. Sadly, this is a missed opportunity as it leads the audience to believe they can solve the mystery by assessing the suspects. After the film’s first act, the great Inspector Sun investigates and questions various people, but sadly, one scene after another feels like a dead end. Soon, the viewers watch random moments with little story progression and unpredictable outcomes.
Although actor Ronnie Chieng’s voice acting is impressive and enjoyable, his character is not always likable. In one scene, when Inspector Sun is approached by a stranger seeking help, he dismisses the situation carelessly. When a murder occurs, Sun is more excited about having a case to solve than being shocked by the brutal murder of someone he recently encountered. While this type of character moment has been used for comedic effect, it makes the character appear ridiculous and rude at certain moments, with a level of arrogance that becomes more frustrating to watch than funny.
Overall, this is an animated movie with a similar storyline to Murder on the Orient Express or Death on the Nile. I enjoyed the world and the creatures featured in the film, and what’s even more impressive and fun is the voice acting of Ronny Chieng, which is excellent. The movie starts with a promise and a fun murder premise, and the animation is creative and welcoming. Unfortunately, the film loses its way in the second act by going around in circles with dead ends and a reveal that is impossible to figure out. It feels like the movie cheats by offering something random and lazy. Additionally, the movie’s lead character, Inspector Sun, can sometimes be arrogant and make light of the situation even when someone dies. While aimed at children, a few creepy aspects may not be suitable for younger children.
Inspector Sun and the Curse of the Black Widow (2022) are available in Australian Cinemas starting February 15th!