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Review by Rich Cline | MUST SEE
dir Dan Scanlon
prd Kori Rae
scr Dan Scanlon, Jason Headley, Keith Bunin
voices Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer, Mel Rodriguez, Lena Waithe, Ali Wong, Tracey Ullman, Wilmer Valderrama, Kyle Bornheimer, Dave Foley, John Ratzenberger
release US/UK 6.Mar.20
20/US Pixar 1h42
BERLIN FILM FEST
Combining epic action and resonant emotion, it's hard to dislike this lively Pixar animated fantasy. Not only is the imagery packed with surprising detail, but the story nods to cinematic classics from The Princess Bride to Indiana Jones as it propels its likeably messy characters on a personal quest. So not only does it frequently catch some proper feelings, but it's also a lot of fun.
With magic as a distant memory, 16-year-old elf Ian (voiced by Holland) is perplexed that his late father (Bornheimer) left him a wizard's staff for his birthday, complete with instructions to bring Dad back to life for 24 hours. Ian's loudmouth, magic-obsessed brother Barley (Pratt) is thrilled, but inadvertently messes up the spell, so they only bring back their dad's lower half. Without telling their mom Laurel (Louis-Dreyfus), they set off to find another magical Phoenix stone to finish the incantation, seeking help from the Manicore (Spencer), who has let her own powers atrophy.
Filmmaker Scanlon based the story on his own fatherless childhood, so he's able to offer remarkable insight. The post-magical world, in which there are no humans, allows the animators to play with elves, trolls, dragons, pixies, centaurs and more, adding riotous humour, witty references (like a sprite biker gang) and frenetic action mayhem. At the centre are two brothers who can't remember their dad, just trying to have however much time they can get with him. And along the way, they discover that there's a lot of magic still around them.
Pixar characters always have depth and complexity, facing events in ways that aren't always easy, and heading in directions the audience might not predict. The designs are enjoyably cartoonish with remarkably authentic facial expressions that echo the superb voice work (Pratt especially has a lot of fun). Even side characters are given details that bring them to life and add witty textures to each scene. And most refreshingly, there's no need for a villain.
Along the road, major obstacles along provide some scary moments of suspense, a fast and furious car chase, and an enormous climactic battle that continually shifts to keep the audience off balance, even though it's clear what has to happen. But Scanlan and crew continually subvert expectations, cleverly playing on connections between siblings, parents and children, while also reminding us that we have a lot more power than we think we do. So heed the warning: kids who embrace this film might become a lot bolder.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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