A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Wizard's Tale is an animated fantasy adventure based on Here Comes the Grump, a trippy cartoon series that ran on NBC from 1969 to 1970. Several throwback elements are incorporated into the film, including a psychedelic sequence, a helium bar where patrons blow smoke rings and act "loony," and a princess without much agency who thinks more like Snow "Someday My Prince Will Come" White than Moana. The story's focus is on finding (and losing) romantic love: The princess believes that her life's purpose is to marry a prince, and a wizard becomes hateful when he believes his girlfriend left him and tries to impose his unhappiness on everyone else. Both characters sort of evolve, but only after 75 minutes of going down those stereotypical roads. Kissing as a symbol of true love is frequently discussed and sometimes seen. Both main characters experience the death of a loved one, although it may not be clear to younger viewers that the deaths occurred. While the characters are often in peril, the movie feels more like a Saturday morning cartoon than anything else, with slapstick violence and evil minions that look like Q*bert -- it's all so silly that the scariness doesn't stick. Language includes "sucks" and insults like "bozo," "buffoon," and "dumb."
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In A WIZARD'S TALE, an enthusiastic new wizard's happiness spell goes awry. As punishment, the angry king secretly banishes the wizard's girlfriend, Mary (voiced by Amy Thompson), from Groovynham. Sad and disillusioned, the wizard becomes "Grump" (Ian McShane), a nasty troll who retaliates by zapping the citizens of Groovynham into "gloom." Decades later, Mary's grandson, Terry (Toby Kebbell), accidentally travels to the magical land. To get back home, he must complete a quest alongside marriage-obsessed Princess Dawn (Lily Collins).
Is it any good?
This animated fairy tale is an attack on the senses: wild, bright color schemes; fantastical characters constantly moving and bouncing; and abrasive voice acting. It's pretty annoying if you're an adult, but it's in line with programming for younger kids -- think Teletubbies meets Yo Gabba Gabba. If only the messaging were more appropriate for such young viewers. Saying that love is the key to happiness makes sense: There's love of family, love for yourself, a pet, neighbors, even enemies. But promoting the idea that romantic love is the key to happiness -- that unless you have a significant other, you're a "grump" who's trying to push frustration and misery on those around you -- isn't constructive, useful advice for children.
It's almost as if A Wizard's Tale was written in a different era -- and, in a sense, it was. The movie was inspired by a long-forgotten one-season cartoon series called Here Comes the Grump that ran on NBC in the fall of 1969; reportedly, it was canceled because it didn't fit in with the network's direction to be "socially conscious." A princess who prefers to be helpless and can only be talked into becoming queen before she's married because "the crown is pretty" is such an antiquated representation of women that it's hard to believe the movie's script was written recently. Why filmmakers thought it was a good idea to revive this story is as confusing as the film's plot. The events are hard to follow, and key moments are shrouded in such subtlety that kids may not understand what's going on or why. Some dialogue that could make the plot clearer is whispered, mumbled, or just hard to understand. Collins may have intended her take on Princess Dawn to be whimsical, but it doesn't work; conversely, Kebbell's warm sincerity as Terry is the soothing safe harbor among the chaos.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about A Wizard's Tale's messages. What did the movie imply is the key to happiness? Do you agree? What makes you happy now? What do you think might make you happy in the future?
Princess Dawn chooses to be a damsel in distress, eagerly hoping a prince will rescue her. Is that a stereotype? How does it differ from the way princesses tend to be depicted in movies these days? How does Dawn evolve over the course of the movie?
Grim has a very bad day, during which everything he'd been dreaming of accomplishing blows up in his face. How does he handle adversity? What are better ways to cope with disappointment and loss?
Had you heard of the show that inspired this movie? If not, are you interested in watching it now?
- In theaters: September 14, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: December 11, 2018
- Cast: Toby Kebbell, Lily Collins, Ian McShane
- Director: Andrés Couturier
- Studio: Blue Fox Entertainment
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Fairy Tales
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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