Merlin, The Return
dir-scr Paul Matthews
with Rik Mayall, Tia Carrere, Patrick Bergin, Craig Sheffer, Adrian Paul, Julie Hartley, Byron Taylor, Leigh Greyvenstein, Anthony Bishop, Grethe Fox, Jennifer Steyn, Jocelyn Broderick
release UK 22.Dec.00
Peakviewing 00/UK 1h28 2 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
Sword in the stone. Merlin and Arthur (Mayall and Bergin) prepare to do battle against the forces of evil ... again.
Combining the production design of a series like Xena or Hercules with the attitude of a Saturday morning kids programme, Merlin, The Return is a curious oddity that is probably too violent for small children and too silly for older ones. The premise isn't bad: An ambitious scientist (Carrere) breaks the spell that has kept the characters from the Arthurian legend in check for 1,500 years. Now Merlin (Mayall) is running around frantically trying to seal up the opening to the Netherworld before the evil Mordred (Sheffer) breaks through to wreak havoc on earth. Arthur (Bergin) goes into battle mode, unsure whether to trust his former knight Lancelot (Paul) or his unfaithful wife Guinevere (Hartley). Meanwhile, a couple of kids (Taylor and Greyvenstein) get involved in saving the planet.

Aimed squarely at the kiddies, writer-director Matthews seems to feel that coherence and logic are irrelevant as he resolutely refuses to make any sense of the characters or situations, besides the bare minimum to let us follow the action. And this cheap and cheerful approach to the script is echoed in the goofy sets, costumes, music, special effects ... and performances. The cast is fine (Sheffer has the most thankless role, all big-wigged and growling), and the child characters are just surly and suspicious enough to grab a young audience. Although there's not much for grown-ups besides the guilty pleasure of laughing at the sheer cheesiness of it all. It really does feel like the pilot for a TV series, complete with a fake replica of Stonehenge (in a forest clearing?) and a massive groan-inducing finale. But the real mystery is how this avoided going straight to video.

[PG--violence, themes] 30.Nov.00

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall