Main cast: Kiefer O’Reilly (Howard Lovecraft/Davik), Michelle O’Reilly (Sarah Lovecraft), Mark Hamill (Dr Henry Armitage), Jeffrey Combs (King Abdul), Christopher Plummer (Dr West), Tyler Nicol (Winfield Lovecraft), Alison Wandzura (Mary Lovecraft), Sean Patrick O’Reilly (Spot), Summer O’Reilly (Gotha), Phoenix O’Reilly (Twi’i), Harmony O’Reilly (Innes), Scott McNeil (Dagon), Jane Curtin (Algid Bunk), Doug Bradley (Nyalarthotep), and Ron Perlman (Shoggoth)
Director: Sean Patrick O’Reilly
Howard Lovecraft and the Undersea Kingdom is a sequel to Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom, and it features the same cast of main characters, so it may be a good idea to watch that other movie first. Note that the entire series attempts to transform the Cthulhu mythos into a cute cartoon starring a perky kid who only happens to look like he’d sneaked into his mom’s room and found the mascara – a part of me is still cringing after having watched that other movie, and I am only sitting through this for the sake of completion. All this is played up without any irony or humor, so people hoping for some early day Tim Burton-style fun are going to be very disappointed.
Howard is still a sickly snowflake jumping in fear at everything here, although this fear noticeably vanishes and he becomes the usual know-it-all spunky kid type once things get going. This time around, Spot lets him know in a dream that the mean King Abdul has found a new BFF – “a great and terrible ally” – so he and Spot now have to go on a trip to Dagon-ville in a quest to locate and restore three old journals, save his parents, the usual.
Perhaps this is an age thing, but while I’ve seen several people not liking this one as much as the previous one because it’s far darker and even bleaker in tone, I like this one more for the exact same reason. While there is nothing truly frightening here – no death of parents scenes, no scenes of villains graphically falling to their deaths like the usual Disney fare of the old days – the tone of the whole thing is actually pretty grim. There is a sense of impending catastrophe throughout the whole thing, and Howard’s brush with possible personal losses can hit the feels a bit more than I expected. Of course, everything turns out fine in the end, but there is a more grown-up feel to this installment. Even Spot isn’t anywhere a plush toy action figure like he was in the previous outing.
However, other issues also stand out. I initially gave Kiefer O’Reilly a pass in the previous movie, as he’s a kid but really, Daddy can’t spare a bit more money this time around to get him a teacher? His voicing of Howard is as flat and lifeless as ever, which can be frustrating as it kills any tension that may be present in a scene. It’s hard to muster any emotion for any scene when the protagonist sounds like he is born dead inside and hence is incapable of feeling any human emotion anymore. Kid voice actors are interchangeable squeaky things, right? Maybe Daddy can send this kid on a holiday and let some other more animated kid take over the voice-over duties in the future.
The animation is still on the “clearly low budget” side, but it’s still serviceable. Really, I do like this one more than the previous outing, hence it is even more disappointing that the lead character still sounds like a puppet voiced by a very inexperienced ventriloquist, especially when he is surrounded by characters voiced by the likes of Mark Hamill and Doug Bradley. Sorry, kid, but sometimes, a little more effort is needed before we can get a pass.