A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the Ukrainian/Belgian film A Magical Journey is a child-centric fantasy adventure where kids face a variety of threats. Among them, getting chased, locked up, nearly poisoned, threatened with electrocution, mocked, almost cooked for dinner, thrown to the ground, and chased by adults. Other men are beaten up, killed then brought back to life, hit over the head, thrown around, electrocuted, taken hostage at gun point, and tied up. A young girl watches how two members of her family die in a fire that was intentionally set by another relative. All of this is played for fantasy, as if inside different movies, but the dangers are real to the characters. Language includes "damn," "hell," "ass," "idiot." There's occasional cigarette smoking and one scene where a group of men appear to be drunk. A young girl is told to kiss a frog to see if he turns into a prince.
What's the story?
A MAGICAL JOURNEY sees 11-year-old Polina (Polina Pechenenko) escape her abusive home, where she lives with an aunt and grown male cousin, to try to find out what happened to her missing parents. She knows the mystery involves a movie studio, and once there, a man (Jean Reno) appears to her in a hologram and tells her she must piece together the sections of a family photo in order to solve the mystery before midnight, when she turns 12. Her search for the missing pieces of the photo takes her to different stages in the studio, each of which sends her into a different setting, or movies starring a shared cast of actors. She must escape a variety of threatening situations on the various sets, and in between she's still being chased by her cousin. Some of the actors help her and others seem intent on hurting her or the new friends she's made.
Is it any good?
There's an adage in storytelling that encourages writers to "show, don't tell"; this film could have benefited from that advice. Instead, A Magical Journey relies heavily on a character's recollection of events to compensate for a disjointed storyline that doesn't add up to much of anything. An oddball collection of characters moves from disconnected setting to setting, or more accurately, from soundstage to soundstage of a magical movie studio, as a young girl tries to solve a mystery by midnight.
The adventure leaves nothing for viewers to grab onto -- no fully-developed characters, no hoped-for outcome. Other aspects add to the weirdness, including some poorly-dubbed actors in the English version and dismal attempts at humor (?) often involving kids getting hurt. A final fight scene made to look like an early-era video game is vexing. French veteran Jean Reno's apparition as an omniscient hologram does nothing to lift the proceedings, nor does the presence of a few other familiar faces. Take a pass on this muddled journey.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the idea of going "behind the screen" or inside a movie, as Polina does in A Magical Journey. What movie would you like to go inside of?
Polina narrowly escapes danger in many scenes. How does she rely on the help of others to save herself? How does she help others stay safe?
Of all the worlds Polina enters, which felt the most realistic? Which the least? Did any remind you of other movies you've watched?
- On DVD or streaming: October 19, 2021
- Cast: Polina Pechenenko, Virginie Ledoyen, Jean Reno
- Director: Olias Barco
- Studio: Blue Fox Entertainment
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Fairy Tales, Friendship
- Run time: 94 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: October 27, 2021
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