The Spanish Beano brothers breakout!

Please note the review below may contain minor spoilers - I've done my best to keep them to a minimum.

After charming audiences since the late 40’s - in comic form - the Spanish brothers of Zip & Zap finally break from their pages for an on-screen debut with Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang courtesey of director Oskar Santos.

Riding on what could very well be described as a prison bus towards their destination, two brothers Zip (Raúl Rivas) and Zap (Daniel Cerezo) strike up a conversation with another fellow traveller (Filo played by Fran García) on the naughty exam-stealing prank which landed them in this predicament.

After swapping stories, becoming fast friends and arriving at the school they’ve heard so much about, surely they ponder, things can't be that bad? Sadly they learn that everything they’ve heard is indeed true, with the school being almost akin to a child’s prison, led by the strict cyclops named Falconetti (Javier Gutiérrez) and his lapdog henchman Heidi (Christian Mulas).

Led day in and day out to a series of regimented classes and forced exercise, any step out of line lands Zip or Zap locked in the ‘room of self reflection’, to ponder their transgressions and hopefully learn to become model children of society.

But this is Zip & Zap, two boys who never do what they’re told by parents or society and decide to team up - with Filo, Matilde (Claudia Vega) and Micro (Marcos Ruiz) - to form the Marble Gang, going on daring missions during ‘lights out’ to get back at a school that has treated them so poorly - leaving a marble at the ‘scene of a crime’. But one night during a mission, the gang stumble upon a scene that will whirl them into an adventure and force them into uncovering the true secrets of this school.

Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang is a bit of an oddity, filmwise.

Young children going on grand - and not so grand - adventures, unbeknownst to the adults around them has been a cornerstone of children's literature for time immemorial. From Enid Blyton, Lewis Carroll and Roald Dahl, their thematics have shaped every child's early life and become staples to abide by.

Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang is no different. Possessing all the hallmarks of a British influenced, family-oriented film; starring a dastardly duo who could well be from the Beano itself and a ramshackle cabal of quirky friends creating fun in a place that’s sucking it from their fellow inmates like a dementor. And I say inmates because like all modern family films, the villain and location are hammed up to the max.

Whilst all the actors within Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang are completely unknown - at least to UK audiences - they still imbue those same qualities, from the eye-patched, warden (Javier Gutiérrez) and the school bully (Piojo played by Aníbal Tártalo), to the gang of uniformed kids themselves, all encompassing the classic character stereotypes with the Hogwarts school stylings undeniable - though obviously not quite at the aforementioned level of quality.

Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang (Raúl Rivas, Daniel Cerezo, Javier Gutiérrez, Fran Garcia, Claudia Vega, Marcos Ruiz and Christian Mulas)

This is most noticeable in the CG of Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang, that for the most part is perfectly adequate and even quite surprising, then a scene will pop up with some computer imagery that will completely take you out of the experience. Once you realise though, that whilst Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang is releasing to UK - and to native English language audiences - as a whole now in 2017, it actually saw a release in its home country of Spain back in 2013 leading to some of its visual effects looking dated at times. But this definitely doesn’t take away from the enjoyment I had with the film, even if its content was something I had seen a hundreds times before in different forms over the decades.

What is definitely puzzling though, is who the target audience for Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang actually is?

The children who will likely enjoy this movie will be young, a far cry from a film audience like myself that has basked on subtitled, foreign content for years, heck most of the people the film is seemingly aimed at will be just getting the gist of the English language itself. Now obviously the franchise is popular in Spain - with even another movie releasing just last year - and they wish to spread that success overseas, but I fear the decision of not dubbing the movie for children to quickly understand its smatterings will harm its impact to a potential audience.

Those odd decisions don’t end there either I’m afraid, as once again a pet peeve of mine rears its head - no special features. The point of a home release is to take it home, watch when you want, and maybe even get a little more out of it depending on the special features available. Deciding not to put any on the disc once again gives a reason for people not to pick it up when it offers no advantages to just streaming it online, especially when it's a franchise they clearly wish to introduce to a British audience you would think special features assisting in that endeavour would be a no-brainer.

All in all, Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang is your stereotypical kids movie, with a ramshackle bunch of unlikely friends cooped up at a boarding school, battling against a series of comic villains to save the day. It’s a little fun adventure, that's at times quirky and even surprises with some nice visual effects now and then - even if you have seen it all before.

The only problem - besides lack of special features - with Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang that may negate enjoyment for kids is that it’s subtitled, and I question how many of its young target audience - that the movie is assumedly - would be able to follow along.

A DVD review copy of Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang was provided by the distributor for review purposes.

  • Review by
    David Robinson

    Twitter: @5ypher

    Posted on
    27th June 2017

  • 3 Out of 5 Stars
  • Cliché

    No special features

    Nothing you haven't seen before

  • Sense of adventure

    Some good visual effects

    Fun & quirky

Film Info

Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang
Rating: PG
Release Date: 26th June
Runtime: 1 hr 32 min
Director: Oskar Santos
Starring: Raúl Rivas, Daniel Cerezo, Javier Gutiérrez, Fran Garcia, Claudia Vega, Marcos Ruiz & Christian Mulas

  • Harry Potter (series)
  • The Chronicles of Narnia (series)
  • Zathura

Yes, the film contains light hearted violence but beware the film is subtitled.

Zip & Zap is derived from the Spanish word zipizape, meaning "turmoil" or "chaos".

The second instalment in the franchise (Zip & Zap and the Captain's Island) released last year in Spain with the two young actors reprising their roles.