DVD Movie Review: Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang

By Thom Compton 03.02.2018

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Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang (UK Rating: PG)

Is it really fair for an adult to rate a children's movie? It's not really the demographic of a person above the age of 13 to decide what is and isn't fun for kids to watch. Still, it's all in the job, so it's important for anyone reviewing one of these films to try to get into the mindset of a child, and try to understand whether or not a certain film will definitely appeal to the young, and even the young at heart. Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang might very well appease some children, but it fringes too much on worn out jokes to really hold the attention it's clearly seeking. Released on DVD in March 2017, it is now available under the Thunderbird Releasing label in the UK.

Zipi and Zape are brothers sent to a boarding school to participate in summer school. It's clear of the two that Zape is the troublemaker, while Zipi, although not being completely innocent, is the more sensible and level-headed of the two. On their way to the school, they meet Filo, a young boy whose weight and somewhat erratic behaviour are pretty much the only jokes he has. At school, they meet Micro, the nerd of the lot, who's not much better in terms of humour. Rounding out the Marble Gang is the sole girl, Matilde, who manages to stand toe to toe with the boys in terms of wreaking havoc for the administration.

The administration is made up of Falconetti, the head of the school, and his over-zealous sidekick, Heidi. Heidi even comes with his own attack dog, and Falconetti, the primary villain of the film, comes with his own eye patch. While none of the performances are particularly bad, this is a movie for youngsters, and the level of camp in most of the characters is pretty high. Fortunately, this should only really irritate the adults, and that hardly matters. Sure, you have to sit through the film with them, but chances are your little 'uns are more excited about this than you are.

The adventure here is actually pretty impressive in scale, and there are some delightful segments that showcase a smart and tense journey through the grounds around the school. The special effects aren't particularly good - in fact some are downright awful. From a weird maggot to a self-building slide, there's a lot of poor CGI happening in the Marble Gangs midst. Also, the story has noticeable downswings, such as repeated trips to the 'Meditation' room that only really pay off towards the end. The film spends so much time differentiating Zipi and Zape at the beginning that too often Zape's behaviour can feel like it's deserving of the punishment he receives.

The film's weirdest parts, though, come from the sheer brutality of the adults versus children moments. Most of the adults are portrayed, as you may expect, as buffoons and generally inept. However, characters like Heidi are often absurdly aggressive towards the kids, to the point where it's not funny and kind of terrifying. He threatens violence against them in ways that are genuinely grotesque, at least in the context of a children's film. It's not enough where parents might want to avoid the experience, but it's definitely noticeable and more than a little off-putting.

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10
Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang is honestly a pretty enjoyable film, for what it is. Clearly, this isn't a movie that concerns itself with whether or not the parents watching find it amusing, and for that, it can come off campy and even a bit slapstick from time to time. This isn't a problem in reality; the real problem comes from the film's more boring moments, and the way it seems to forget that even the most ruthless adults shouldn't threaten children with such extreme acts of violence as sometimes come off here. Then again, it does make the climax a bit more enjoyable.

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