Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston direct Mackenzie Foy, Keira Knightley and Jayden Fowora-Knight in this fantasy adventure about an inventive lass who enters the saccharine but declining world of her dead mother’s childhood imagination.
Better than its troubled production (the syrupy Hallström was replaced by the more FX minded but hacky Johnston midshoot) and slow box office suggest. It is a high fantasy adventure in the form of an Oz movie or Labyrinth but strained through the winsome visual palette of Disney’s current brand of winsome and fluttery live action !!!PRINCESS!!! remakes. Foy makes for a far less toothy and twiglike protagonist than her counterparts in Beauty and the Beast or Cinderella. The story, though beholden to playing homage to Marius Petipa’s ballet suite, allows for more deviation and “surprises”. I say surprises as if there are shocks… it is all thoroughly predictable but at least less constricted to a well worn tale as its stable mates often unsexily are. I want to talk about the villian, who puts in a brilliant pantomime worthy turn, but don’t want to ruin the twist for any 8 year olds reading this. There are bursts of visual invention; a swarm of mice forming a gigantic mouse king, a cracked exile queen living in a working puppet fortress shaped like herself, a laboratory of cogs and megascopes that brings toy armies to life. Enough of such bursts that I begrudgingly enjoyed this unwanted blockbuster for what it is, a childish lark, more than what it has become on the hit-centric studio’s account ledger: an expensive fail.