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|The Thief Lord
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
dir Richard Claus
scr Daniel Musgrave, Richard Claus
with Aaron Johnson, Jasper Harris, Rollo Weeks, Alice Connor, George MacKay, Lathaniel Dyer, Jim Carter, Caroline Goodall, Alexei Sayle, Robert Bathurst, Carole Boyd, Vanessa Redgrave
release Ger 5.Jan.06,
06/Germany Warner 1h38
Follow me boys: The Thief Lord leads his urchins
Based on the bestselling novel by Cornelia Funke, this youthful adventure yarn has the kind of entertainingly gonzo storyline that completely disarms us, simply because anything could happen.
Teenage Prosper and 6-year-old Bo (Johnson and Harris) are brothers who've just lost their mother and then escaped from a creepy aunt and uncle who want to separate them. They head for Venice, where they join up with Scipio (Weeks), who's known as the Thief Lord and leads a trio of urchins (Connor, MacKay and Dyer). Then a low-life criminal (Sayle) hires them to steal a valuable wooden wing. Meanwhile, a private eye (Carter) has been hired to find them, and his girlfriend (Goodall) may hold the secret to the mystery.
Claus directs this story with an intriguingly freewheeling tone--the film looks sharp and efficient, yet bristles with scruffy charm, offhanded gags and authentic chaos that's often slightly out of control. Which is extremely refreshing after the slick, blandness Hollywood throws at us. The plot is like Peter Pan meets Oliver Twist by way of Harry Potter. And as it progresses, with its outrageous coincidences and over-the-top characters, it begins to feel like a distinct classic all its own.
The cast is relaxed and enjoyable as they bound through the lively story. A couple of the kids are weakly developed, but at least each has his or her own subplot to carry, and the central figures create dynamic relationships between each other. The filmmakers allow them to act their ages, too, which is great to see on screen. The bravery and physicality are tinged with real childishness; the teens have slight shadows to their personalities.
And the story is so peculiar that unless you've read the book there's no way you can predict where it's going. When Vanessa Redgrave pops up as a rather excitable nun, rambling on about a magical merry-go-round that can alter the ageing process, we know we're way beyond safe, predictable kids' movies. And as a result, the grown-ups will have almost as much fun marvelling at the story as the children have living it.
|Kaylah, Australia: "This film proved exciting and magical! The actors make you feel like you've known them for years and years! A great film and definetley worth a look!" (30.Jan.07)
© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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