I saw this yesterday at the Writers Guild screening, and was whelmed at best. I’m sure it will do well, for any number of reasons. Its biggest audience though strikes me as 14-and-under. What I’ll be curious about is word of mouth for an older audience, even with it being based on a beloved kid’s book. The story is just very thin, and I was surprised that much of the acting is leaden. (The young girl, Storm Reid, was good, and there were a couple nice supporting roles, but they’re small.) Oddly, I also think it's miscast in a lot of places. And I question quite a few of the costume and hair-and-make-up choices, which for my taste I found silly and distracting. (The point being that when costume, hair and makeup are what you take away from scenes, more than what's being said, you have an issue...)
Mainly, it seems like a Very Special Episode of Oprah with very good computer effects. (And not even metaphorically Oprah, but with Actual Oprah herself telling us to love and trust being ourselves.) And while the special effects are extremely impressive -- most-especially if you like ribbons -- they get repetitious because so often they're more atmospheric than content-critical. It's certainly a nurturing movie with a good heart. and there are scenes that work well, and some quite-wonderful moments, but for a movie like this you want the spirit to soar, and (for me) the spirit just sort of lays there, lovely to look at but flat.
I had noticed earlier that a British actress I've come to admire, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, was in it, and I was hoping for this to be a break-out movie for her, but she doesn’t have as big a role as I thought. But it’s a solid part, as the girl’s mother and wife of Chris Pine. And she’s one of the few adults in it who do a good job. Pine is the other, but both are small roles. (She starred in the British costume drama, Belle, and most-recently was one of the leads in The Cloverfield Paradox, with three movies upcoming. Maybe one of those will do it for her.)
It's certainly not bad at all. And there's plenty that's very enjoyable. But mostly it had a sense of importance that doesn't fit the sparsity of plot. I actually wanted to love it. That's why I stayed. I almost left halfway through, but kept hoping for wonderful. But for me, it just isn't.
Here's the trailer. Often I'll say about a trailer that it doesn't give a true sense of the movie, meaning that is better. In this case, the trailer is better. It's compact, has only snippets of dialogue, doesn't overwhelm with effects and punches the dramatic points. But you'll get a sense of the film by listening to the song playing in the background, the singer repeating, "You can be as beautiful as you are," over and over and over and over and over -- in case you didn't get the point the first six time...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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