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  1. Published on: 26/03/2018 08:49 PMReported by: Film Critic
    Plot: After her father disappearing, a young girl along with her younger brother, a friend and three peculiar beings travel through space and time to find him.

    While it has been getting A LOT of promotion in America, I don't think many people here in the UK are as excited or aware of this latest Disney product based on the successful book.

    I'm not much of a book reader. But I have heard this story has been labelled as unfilmable. Whenever I hear that, I always hark back to Cloud Atlas. That film in my opinion ended up being one of the greatest films of all-time. So with Ava DuVernay being director, I do have some expectations of this being a highly memorable watch.

    This is a really strange one to review. There is so much to admire, and yet very little to get invested in. It starts off with some promise. But when the fantasy element enters the arena, the execution of it just felt wrong. One big reason was the characters reaction to certain things. It just did not make sense. You would naturally be shocked or mesmerized. But instead they just reacted as if they had seen that sort of thing before, and just carried on.

    The rest of the film continues that streak on impressive things happening on screen, but lacking that impact for the audience to experience themselves. There's a lot of minor similarities I noticed to films like The Wizard Of Oz, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Tomorrowland: A World Beyond, Labyrinth, The Neverending Story and even The Lady In The Water.

    I think if you can stick with it and commit to it as much as you can, I think you can enjoy the strong finish it has. Many of the films shining moments were in the final act. But I don't think it was enough to ignore its problems in the build-up.

    There's a nice mix of experienced and brand new in this cast. Storm Reid was a pretty solid lead for the most part. She seemed to handle the emotional parts of the story well, but not with the surprise fantasy moments. I don't know if that was bad directing as the stuff she was reacting strangley to was CGI based, and therefore she is seeing nothing. That being said, I saw great potential in her and I hope she gets more opportunities.

    Deric McCabe was a real star in this for me, especially in the final act. He showed surprisingly great range and was an interesting character to watch. With all of this coming from someone who is aged nine, I think he could be a strong child actor for the next few years.

    There was some nice performances from minor roles played by Reese Witherspoon and Chris Pine. Witherspoon has still got it for me. She felt very committed to her role and was almost channeling Elle Woods from Legally Blonde. As for Pine, I feel he is a super under-rated actor. People will know him from Star Trek, and not much else. It is a shame he is not used for a lot of projects, as I think he is terrific actor, particularly for blockbusters and in this one.

    I thought Zach Galifiankis and Michael Pena had some nice moments in their short time on screen. Sadly I felt Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling and Levi Miller were either underwhelming or under-used.

    There are quite a lot of striking visuals throughout, which was helped with with the cinematography. But there were times you could tell they were in front of a green screen, which kind of made it look hokey at times. The gorgeous location choices of New Zealand was a top choice also.

    There is certainly a lot to be intrigued about this one. You can see a great film in here. I was impressed with what was happening on screen and there are many touching moments. But something was missing from making me caring or getting wrapped up in the story. It seemed to lack that punch to make this impactful viewing. I felt like I was watching this from afar, rather than feeling like I was getting involved. There were also many jumbled portions of the film, particularly in the middle.

    I think it was a combination of story-telling and writing that prevented this from being a strong piece of entertainment and making sense of everything that was happening.

    Also I'm not sure if kids will fully appreciate this. I think certain kids that will get the most from this are fans of the book, and kids that are high in their creativity and imagination.

    They really aimed high with this. But it just didn't quite work. So to call it an honorable failure would be a fair conclusion. But respect goes to Ava DuVernay and her team for this project.

    I wouldn't be surprised if this becomes a cult hit though, as I can see kids from this generation praise this as they get older. A bit like Return To Oz from the 80's or Hook or A Goofy Movie from the 90's.

    Rating: 6/10
     

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