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Spider Sleuth Saga Stops Somewhat Short – Inspector Sun and the Curse of the Black Widow (Film Review)

3 min read

Dazzler Media

Anyone who has read an Agatha Christie novel, or more aptly seen an adaptation of the author's work, will be acutely aware that the on a mode of luxury transport is a well-worn and highly effective trope of the murder mystery genre. Suspects are contained but still able to roam, and the detective charged with solving the murder can interact with the potential murderers both individually and as a group to solve the whodunnit. That said, these familiar elements are not as well-trodden in the world of children's animation, although that is exactly what is explored in Inspector Sun and the Curse of the Black Widow.

Inspector Sun and the Curse of the Black Widow follows the titular detective, short on confidence and looking to take a holiday, only to be dragged into the hunt for a murderer aboard an aeroplane in 1934; or at least among the insect communities on board all while avoiding the humans and attempting to catch the killer before they strike again. With his new assistant in tow, and the widow of the victim clearly being framed, Sun must get to the bottom of what happened while attempting to prove he is the detective his reputation suggests.

There are a lot of positives to be found in Inspector Sun and the Curse of the Black Widow. The level of detail and attention therein is quite special. Being a period piece, the film leans into the aesthetic and theme with nods to the likes of Murder on the Orient Express, the Indiana Jones franchise and other films set around that time. It feels like a labour of love and that makes a real difference. Additionally, the characters are well drawn, literally, and the film does a great job of playing with the idea of the murder mystery theme while making use of the arachnid and insect components of the various players. 

That said, it's not all good news. The pacing is completely unbalanced with the main story taking far too long to get moving and the final third feeling rushed to its conclusion. The characters, Sun and Janey especially, are a little underdeveloped and one-dimensional, making it hard to care about their success or failure. However, most problematic is the tone of the film. The comedy elements don't land very well, and when there are marginally darker moments they clash with the feel of the rest of the film; making the tonal shifts quite jarring. 

Inspector Sun and the Curse of the Black Widow should certainly be lauded for attempting to do something different for a children's film. It attempts to write a love letter to a well-respected, much-loved genre and offer something a little more complex for younger audiences. It doesn't completely succeed in that endeavour, and it's not without its issues, but there's a perfectly serviceable film in Inspector Sun and the Curse of the Black Widow, even if it doesn't quite do enough to put itself into the higher brackets of beloved and memorable family movies. 

Inspector Sun and the Curse of the Black Widow is out now in cinemas