Cartoon Network looks determined to corner TV’s market on teenage boys with extraordinary powers, which, given its demographic objectives, probably isn’t a bad strategy. The latest addition to that genre is “Firebreather,” based on a graphic novel about a 16-year-old of mixed heritage — mom being human, and dad a 120-foot monster who leads a subterranean race known as the Kaiju. Graced with impressive action but generally a bore between battles, if nothing else this CGI movie will make your in-laws seem relatively benign just in time for Thanksgiving.
Directed by Peter Chung (“Aeon Flux”), “Firebreather” moves quickly enough, and the towering monsters — as realized using computer imagery — are a sight to behold, resembling the old Japanese posse that kept destroying Tokyo, albeit without the flimsy rubber suits.
If only the story and high-school situations weren’t so tired. Duncan (voiced by Jesse Head) is the new kid at school, struggling to fit in. But he’s going through some confusing changes — think puberty on steroids — that mom (Dana Delany) can’t entirely explain.
Duncan has the usual girl troubles, and then there are the bullies who torment him, not realizing that his dad, Belloc (Kevin Michael Richardson), breathes fire and looks a bit like the mountain-dwelling behemoth in “Fantasia.”
As for the how of Duncan’s conception, mom begins to offer an explanation — something about meeting during the “Monster Wars” years before — but the kid abruptly shuts her down.
“I’ve got questions, but that is not one of them,” he says. Yes, but what about the rest of us with inquiring minds?
The 90-minute movie builds toward an inevitable showdown featuring multiple monsters, while Duncan keeps discovering newfound abilities to offset his 115-foot height disadvantage in this matchup.
In success, “Firebreather’s” likely byproduct would be either additional movies or perhaps a series — complementing live-action fare “Tower Prep” and “Unnatural History,” along with the animated “Sym-Bionic Titan,” all CN shows that play off variations of the “Teenage-boy-turned-hero” theme.
Granted, a return engagement wouldn’t be completely unwelcome, but if there is a next time, the protagonist should spend less time in school, and at least provide mom a few minutes to fill the rest of us in on the basics of Monster Sex-Ed 101.