Written by: Niall Browne, Special to CC2K
In this review of the region 2 DVD, CC2K finds a movie that might divert kids … and that's about it.
Over the last decade or so the fantasy film genre has been a main staple of Hollywood’s film output. The success of the Harry Potter and Lord of The Rings films has led to the adaptation of many lesser fantasy tales in the hope of acquiring some of that box office magic. One such film is The Secret of Moonacre.
Adapted from the 1946 book The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge, The Secret of Moonacre stars Dakota Blue Richards as well a the familiar faces of Ioan Gruffudd, Natascha McElhone, Juliett Stevenson and Tim Curry. The simplistic plot follows orphaned Maria Merryweather (Richards) as she moves in with her uncle Benjamin Merryweather (Gruffudd) to the Moonacre Estate. Her only inheritance is a magical book that tells the story of the Moon Princess who has the magic to help restore the now ruinous valley and help resolve the Merryweather feud with the DeNoir family.
The filmmakers behind The Secret of Moonacre probably had the best of intentions when they decided to adapt Goudge’s book for the big screen, and although I have never read the book, I can guess that the screenwriter has taken many liberties with the plot and added a few more “magical” moments along with some caution, in order to make the tale more cinematic. The result of this is that the film lacks any sort of cohesive tone and is far from thrilling.
Hungarian director Gabor Csupo previoulsy helmed the more successful fantasy film Bridge to Terabithia, but he can’t recapture that magic with Moonacre. The films modest budget $27 million may be stretched to breaking point, but it’s just not enough to compete with similar films. While the costumes are pretty, the effects and sets look like they have been produced in mere minutes giving the film the feel of a children’s television show.
The Chronicles of Narnia style plot is aimed squarley at the pre-teen female audience and they may find the magic princess storyline enjoyable, but they may also be bored by the limp pace and the lack of tension as Maria Races to save the valley and stop the curse. In fact The Secret of Moonacre is incredibly old fashioned, and at times it looks like it may have been produced 20 years ago – not a good recommendation when you see these films for their special effects.
The performnaces range from over the top (Stevenson) to wooden (Guffudd), with only Dakota Blue Richards coming out of the film with any sort of dignity. Stevenson is particularly grating as the comic relief nanny- with her sole piece of characterisation being to burp constantly.
Considering the competition on the market with this sort of film, you would expect the film to be stacked with extras, or at the very least have a commentary. However, there’s nothing.
While it might be mildly diverting for girls under 10, The Secret of Moonacre isn’t going to be very much fun for adults, boys or anyone who is interested in Twilight.