Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 39 min.
Our content ratings (0-10): Violence 2; Language 0; Sex/Nudity 2.
Our star rating (1-5): 3.5
It (love) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
I Corinthians 13:7
Director Gary Rydstrom’s musical animated fairy tale has been panned by most critics, but the small audience of adults at the afternoon screening that I attended thoroughly enjoyed it. Yes, I wrote “adults,” not “children”—like myself, they must enjoy so-called children’s fare because most such films contain material that flies above the heads of young viewers. We all stayed through the long list of credits for the two pay-off clips, and were glad we did!
The story by George Lucas and scripted by David Berenbaum, was produced by Lucasfilm and Industrial Light & Magic, and is being distributed by Walt Disney Studios. Partly inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with its love potions, the film is indeed designed for two audiences—children with its colorful animation and action, and their adult caregivers with its medley of songs from the past several decades. Judging by their reviews, I suspect that it was the choice of songs that ticked off some critics, songs such as “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.”
Two kingdoms exist in this tale, Fairyland and the Dark Forest, the two separated by a row of primroses. In the beautiful land of color and brightness there are two fairy princess sisters, as in Frozen. Marianne (Evan Rachel Wood), strong minded and feisty, and Dawn (Meredith Anne Bull), flighty and a bit gullible. Marianne, engaged to the knight Roland (Sam Palladio), is the one singing “Can’t Help Falling in Love” at the beginning of the film, but when she spies him making out with another fairy, she breaks off the engagement and sings “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.” Roland, so much like Gaston in Disney’s 1991 Beauty and the Beast, will not give up, unable to understand how someone could reject such a marvelus speciman of manhood as himself. Marianne’s resolve is intensified by learning that his motivation in marrying her is so that he can have his own army. Unfortunately her father takes Roland’s side by inviting him to a royal ball. It is then that we see how strong-minded Marianne is, virtually driving Roland out of the palace. In the meantime the short of stature peasant Sunny (Elijah Kelley) harbors a crush on Dawn, who regards him just as a good friend while she casts her eyes around for a suitable male.
Deep in the Dark Forest the Bog King (Alan Cumming) vows to destroy all the primroses that separate the two realms because it is from them that a love potion can be made, and if there is one thing that the disappointed in love Bog King hates, it is love. “Love is a dangerous thing,” he observes. He already holds captive the Sugar Plum Fairy (Kristin Chenoweth), so he thinks that cutting down the flowers will bring an end to love.
It is to find the love potion and feed it to Marianne that drives Roland to enter the Dark Forest. He has his army now, provided by the King and villagers. The Bog King has kidnapped Dawn, so Marianne, who has cast aside her gown for the gear of a warrior, also sets forth into the forest. However, the Bog King has got more than he had bargained for because Dawn had consumed some of the potion, and he being the first man she had seen afterward, will not stop swooning and singing whenever she sees him.
The story is indeed, as some charge, pieced together from a variety of tales—for instance, guess who Marianne will fall in love with. And the film is certainly not subtle, with the sisters’ father the King coming right out and saying, “Never judge someone by how he or she looks.” The script writers apparently were afraid that children might miss the point of the film! Despite this, the film is still enjoyable, and to give it its due, the animation is very beautiful. You would not guess this from the poster, the publicists choosing to portray the ugly minions of the Bok King rather than the fairies and their colorful world. The lovely butterfly wings of the fairies and red and blue flowers are a feast for the eyes, especially at the end when we are treated to a fast paced kaleidoscopic sequence of all of the characters. It is quite a treat, and so is one of the cameo shots showing the just fate of Roland that follows the first set of end credits. You will love this little touch!
This review with a set of questions is in the Jan. issue of Visual Parables.