R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Dave McKean
scr Neil Gaiman
with Stephanie Leonidas, Jason Barry, Gina McKee, Rob Brydon, Stephen Fry, Nik Robson, Dora Bryan, Lenny Henry, Simon Harvey, Victoria Robinson, Eryl Maynard, Fiona Reynard
release US 30.Sep.05,
UK 3.Mar.06
05/UK Columbia 1h41

Sleeping beauty: McKee, Leonidas and Brydon

mckee brydon fry

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Mirrormask This strange, imaginative children's adventure has a fantastic visual sense that looks like nothing you've seen. But it's also oddly pitched between potential audiences--too childish for older viewers and too complicated for young children.

Helena (Leonidas) is a teen growing up in the circus with her juggling parents (McKee and Brydon). When Mum gets seriously ill, she drifts into a the dreamland of her drawings. This becomes a struggle for life, as two opposite worlds contend for her help, and she befriends a masked performer (Barry) to help her find the mirrormask that will wake the sleeping Queen of Light (McKee again) and release her from the clutches of the Queen of Shadows (also McKee).

The main theme is that as we grow up we make good or bad decisions that will impact who we become. Not only is this a rather simplistic, black-and-white worldview, but it also has nothing to do with Helena's dying mother. Which kind of leaves us scratching our head about the point of it all.

What we don't doubt is that the film looks wondrous. From the opening frames, the screen is flooded with shafts of light and colour, artful illustrations, graphical artistry and outrageously animated characters that nicely balance the colourful real circus performers in the opening scenes. It's simply jaw-dropping to look at, constantly surprising us with visual and narrative flights of fantasy. Even if it has little discernible meaning, it's still fascinating and involving.

The direction, design and editing are done with an intricate attention to detail. And the nightmarish dreaminess is truly creepy, with bug-like creatures, invasive blackness, fastidious government-type agents, winged cats with human faces, floating giants and more. There's also such a strong current of humour that it often feels like a comical romp, which makes it consistently engaging and keeps the performances wonderfully grounded. It does sometimes get a bit silly, and the constant nuttiness gets wearing whenever the pace lurches or stalls. But it's so loaded with personality and originality that we can't take our eyes off the screen.

cert PG themes, suspense 26.Oct.05 lff

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Mirrormask karl, england: 3.5/5 "Interesting film! My memory was probed and pushed to consider whether I had seen anyhting like this before. Initially, I thought of Monty Python and Terry Gilliam; But found it to be not nearly as sophisticated enough. I believe the story was actually a little weak. Made me think of Dark Crystal and Labrynth (which are actually both better films in their own right). Clearly, there have been a lot of initiators for the guys who wrote this film. I would say there was a stong feeling to add their own personality. I do get the feeling that the story got lost somewhere as I struggle to believe it started out as a PG. I suspect the PG rating came afterwards when 'viewer testing' the film. The passion was almost certainly in the imagery and not the story." (1.Aug.06)
2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall