An eco-friendly CG-animated yarn about the misadventures of a jinxed feline and his furry, feathered friends.

An eco-friendly CG-animated yarn about the misadventures of a jinxed feline and his furry, feathered friends, “The Missing Lynx: Paws on the Run” puts over its message about species extinction with refreshing straightforwardness and the lightest of touches. Working on the assumption that grown-ups already have their opinions on such issues, the easy-on-the-eyes pic plays directly to adolescent auds while respecting their intelligence enough never to descend into simple slapstick. A superior example of Spanish animation — itself always on the verge of extinction — the pic has sold well following its late 2008 release at home.

The film’s central character is a Spanish lynx, Felix (voiced by Jose Luis Martinez in the English-language version), whose species is under threat of being wiped out. Felix is continually getting into scrapes and being taken to an animal rescue center, where he has become friends with curmudgeonly chameleon Gus (Stephen Hughes), whose color changes are comically out of sync with his surroundings; wild goat Beea (Kate Petrie); falcon Astarte (Thisbe Burns); and mole Rupert (Craig Stevenson).

Meanwhile, aging millionaire Noah (Stevenson) hires bad big-game hunter Newmann (voiced with delicious richness by Hughes) to kidnap the animals from the center and take them to an immense hideaway.

Luckily, there are a couple of incompetents on Newmann’s team who allow Felix to escape as the animals are being snatched, and the lynx is able to set about rescuing them in turn.

In line with the general air of restraint, the plot is happily free of padding and clearly worked out. But we learn too late Noah’s true motives for kidnapping the animals; the pic’s resulting message — that a free animal is always better off than an animal in confinement, even when it’s close to extinction — might be true in a perfect world, but it’s too simplistic in a world full of men with guns.

While hardly subtle, characterizations are neatly rendered both visually and psychologically, with Felix’s doubts about his own clumsiness (and his ability to rescue his buddies) providing a handy peg on which tweens can hang their own insecurities. Perpetually irritated conspiracy theorist Gus is a real scene-stealer, but the dialogue — often slowly spelled out so younger viewers won’t miss anything — occasionally drags on too long.

Visually, the pic is a treat. Bright, clear pastels dominate, with ambient occlusion techniques mimicking the effects of southern Spanish sunlight. Sets are based on real Spanish desert and mountain locations and feel satisfyingly solid, providing stunning backdrops for the pic’s fluidly executed action sequences. Point of view is imaginatively used, with lensing always seeking out the most striking angle. The busy, sprightly orchestral score riffs on tried-and-true techniques.

Pic comes in both English and Spanish versions; in the English print, British accents were mainly used, making Felix sound terribly posh.

The Missing Lynx: Paws on the Run

Spain

Production

An Aurum release of an Antonio Banderas presentation of a Kandor Moon, Perro Verde Films production with the collaboration of Canal Sur. (International sales: Six Sales, Madrid). Produced by Marcelino Almansa, Juan Molina, Manuel Sicilia, Manuel Cristobal. Executive producers, Antonio Meliveo, Enrique Posner. Directed by Manuel Sicilia, Raul Garcia. Screenplay, Jose E. Machuca, Sicilia, Garcia.

Crew

Camera (color), Javier Fernandez, Joaquin Catala, David Cabrera; editors, Claudio Hernandez, Nacho Ruiz Capillas; music, Sergio de la Puente; art director, Oscar J. Vargas; sound (Dolby Digital), Federico Pajaro. Reviewed on DVD, Madrid, Oct. 21, 2009. (In Los Angeles Latino Film Festival.) Running time: 97 MIN.

With

Voices: Jose Luis Martinez, Stephen Hughes, Thisbe Burns, Craig Stevenson, Kate Petrie. (English dialogue)

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