IT is always heart-warming to have a talking animal, robot or machine in 3-D on the big screen.
Hollywood gave us Babe, Beethoven, The Incredible Journey, Barnyard, Stuart Little, Zoo Keeper, Short Circuit, Wall-E and Chicken Run, to name a few.
Two years ago, we saw our first attempt at talking animals in Zoo, but the animals had hardly any lip movement or facial expression.
Now, creative KRU brothers Norman, Yusry and Edry Halim have come up with a mischievous, talking tortoise in their latest special effects offering, Cinta Kura-Kura, with popular funnyman Zizan Razak of Raja Lawak fame playing the naughty but lovable reptile.
Playing a tortoise has always been a dream for Anugerah Bintang Popular Berita Harian co-host Zizan. The animal is not only his favourite but also the mascot for his home state of Terengganu. Zizan, who plays river tortoise Nico, is pretty much his funny self here.
The KRU brothers, who excel in CGI filmmaking, have brilliantly sculpted a life-like tortoise’s head and limbs that move in tandem with Zizan’s wacky gestures and rubbery facial expressions.
The result is a local animal icon which combines the best of Hollywood’s animated heroes with the unforgettable Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Nico is not the only talking animal. His female love interest named Mira, is voiced in an irrepressible Kelantan Malay dialect by Hot FM DJ and television personality Fara Fauzana.
And Hantu Kak Limah Balik Rumah’s Syed Azri aka Usop Wilcha plays Mira’s grandfather, a wise old tortoise known as Tok.
While the supporting animal acts are far less mobile than Nico, they are more than capable of cutting him down to size, especially Mira who rebukes him for being a penjual ikan (selfish) in her “mek Kelate” style.
Cinta Kura-Kura tells the story of Nani (Tiz), a graphic designer who lives with her music and food-loving elder brother Amin (Bob).
The orphaned Nani finds a tortoise in a pond near her house and names him Nico. Her neighbour, rock musician Adam (Aeril) holds auditions for his band’s new lead vocalist, and the vocal powerhouse Amin gets the job.
Amin then suggests that Nani, whom Adam has always had his eyes on, designs the logo and posters for the band’s coming gig.
Love soon blossoms between Nani and Adam, and this results in Nico feeling left out. One day, the tortoise reveals his talking ability to Adam, warning him to “stay away from Nani”.
Nico gets into mischief in his bid to split Adam and Nani (including one which makes his mistress think her boyfriend is a pervert), but soon regrets his actions when he meets and falls in love with fellow tortoise Mira from the pet shop run by the arrogant Fazli (Fizz).
Fazli, who has also set his eyes on Nani, is a good friend of restaurant owner Lim (Chew), who sells the meat of exotic animals.
Lim pays Fazli to induce Nani to give up her pet, and Fazli does so by offering to take Nico to a tortoise spa.
Realising she has been tricked, Nani searches for Nico with Adam’s help, and she soon realises there is more to Nico than meets the eye.
Tiz and Aeril, who are teaming up in a major role for the first time, have decent chemistry.
Aeril’s chemistry is equally good with Zizan’s talking tortoise, and Adam gets the audiences’ sympathy when he becomes the victim of Nico’s pranks.
Having played a mature woman in the acclaimed Nur Kasih TV series and movie, it is refreshing to have Tiz play a naive, animal loving college student. Not unlike Lisa Surihani and Liyana Jasmay, she is a versatile actress to look out for.
While Aeril’s role as a lovesick young man bears some resemblance to Shahz Jaszle’s Zek in the recent remake of Azura, Aeril is more adapt at doing comedy than Shahz, and it will be great to have him team up with Tiz, Fara and Zizan again in future.
Fizz’s Fazli has some of the wackiest lines in the movie. Watch out for the telephone conversation where he utters the name of his caller which sounds extremely saucy.
One of his pet shop assistants also steals the limelight by impersonating Datuk Jalaluddin Hassan as the host of gameshow, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
Chew, who excelled as an effeminate manager to Pierre Andre in the latter’s latest movie Chantek, and as independence fighter Tun H.S. Lee in 1957 — Hati Malaya, also steals the show as Lim.
KRU’s deft use of special effects to introduce Lim’s captive animals is hilarious, as it recreates a Jumanji-like situation within a small bungalow.
Akademi Fantasia 2 singer, actor and comedian Bob is at home playing “big daddy” and “big boss” roles (as in Hotel Mania).
As Nani’s in-your-face elder brother-cum-guardian, he encourages her to date Adam as he sees the young man as caring, kind and honest.
Amin also croons some of KRU’s new songs. One of them is Kenapa, made popular by Bob’s protege Daus Eli of Akademi Fantasia 8.
Coincidentally, Daus plays Amin’s band’s drummer, Firdaus, who with the clumsy guitarist Harun (Harun), hilariously mispronounces the name of actress Nora Danish.
KRU used five tortoises for the three reptilian characters, and the producers observed the looks, colours and patterns of real tortoises and welded them into Zizan’s, Fara’s and Syed’s movements.
The brothers were also inspired by the famous children’s story The Tortoise And The Hare. As Norman says the tortoise is old and wise. And the wise tortoise beats the proud hare in the race. While there is no hare in Cinta Kura-Kura, bad guy Fazli’s pet shop, Binatang ’R Us, has a hare logo.
Cinta Kura-Kura is a heart-warming movie for families and contains important social messages about conservation, kindness to animals and accepting people for who they are.