Chris Pratt Julia Louis-Dreyfus Octavia Spencer Tom Holland Mel Rodriguez
This is a fun animated movie that kids are likely to love (and some adults too, based on the guffaws I heard at the screening), with a couple of good messages. Two brothers live with their solicitous mother, getting along fairly well (except maybe for the older one’s bossiness toward the younger, and his chaotic way of dealing with life). Ian the younger (Holland) is imminently responsible and sincere, but painfully shy and woefully lacking in self-confidence. His older brother Barley (Pratt) is just the opposite, never fearing where angels fear to tread, knocking things over and getting into trouble everywhere he turns. But he is good-hearted, and thinks he is doing a yeoman’s job in helping Ian in the father’s absence. Their mother Laurel (Louis-Dreyfus) does a heroic job in running interference and trying to bolster Ian’s self-image and tame Barley’s dominating bluster. Just a typical American family, right?
On Ian’s 16thbirthday, Laurel presents the boys with a gift from their father he wanted them to have when they’ve both reached age 16. Come to find out, their father believed in magic, and gave them something that would pass on his love of the craft. Barley is a bit ahead, being familiar with the Quests of Yore fantasy game, so he coaches Ian every step of the way, even through the “Path of Peril”, with many adventures in between. Their quest is to find the Phoenix Gem that will allow their father to visit them for one day. The quest constitutes the bulk of the movie, which is complicated by Laurel’s need to keep her boys from harm, and in doing so, she enlists the aid of Manticore (Spencer), a good witch.
There are a number of clever—even funny twists—in the plot, such as a spell that gets interrupted brings only the bottom half of the father back, but still, he is able to impress the boys with his dance steps and witty communication. Manticore is a hoot in her blustery problem-solving, grand sweeps, and funky dialog.
Many symbols of magic are sprinkled throughout the story—as in a fantasy game—with the underlying thrust of helping the brothers come of age, Barley in learning the value of wisdom and thoughtfulness and Ian in developing self-confidence. Storytelling is done in such a way that I think kids will get the messages while still being entertained by the animated production.
This is typical Pixar, with stunning graphics and a decent story to go with. It should be popular, but is not likely to make a big splash.
A tale about two brothers and how magic can bring them together and foster their development, overseen by their parents.