Ava is a mischievous girl with a feisty streak who sneaks away from her village to follow her newfound talking animal friend Lala after he saves her life. The two end up being transported (via a flying whale) to a mystical animal sanctuary where animals are protected from humans. Upon their arrival a human-weary bear warns Ava that if she doesn’t leave the magical place in three days she will turn into an animal herself, prompting the need to find an immediate way back home. This journey is soon complicated by the evil intentions of a ruthless tiger general, who has set his sights on a war against the humans, and the revelation that Lala is more than meets the eye.
There is a lot to like about the overall plot of ‘Ava and Lala.’ It features a deep and interesting lore that will be appreciated by children and adults alike. Unfortunately, the film does not deliver in a way that the plot deserves.
The film’s animation is nothing special (borderline terrible), and at most times feels choppy and awkward. At some points there are moments of audio silence where characters in the background are clearly moving their lips to talk but not saying anything. It seems as if there meant to be dialog, but for whatever reason they didn’t add it. There are some great voice actors featured throughout (Tom Arnold, JK Simmons, Mira Sorvino, and George Takei), but they add so little personality to their characters that their presence almost feels unnecessary.
Overall, ‘Ava and Lala’ ends up feeling like a dumbed down Miyazagi film, a hybrid between ‘Spirited Away’ and ‘My Neighbor Totoro.’ Its story has potential, but the awkwardness of its animation and lackluster voice acting hurt its appeal.