A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Emily and the Magical Journey is a fantasy adventure for family and kids. Through the magic of imagination, Emily (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland) enters Faunutland, a fantasy world of her father's creation. The movie begins seriously as it notes that Emily recently lost her father. Some scary scenes and moments of peril could be too much for sensitive young viewers. Surprisingly terrifying music and score greatly contribute to the scariness. A few monsters could scare a younger child, namely the large Belorac and hooded witch. There are scenes of intimidating gestures from little monsters, haunting whispers in a scary cave ("You'll never make it," "It's all your fault," "Your mother doesn't love you," "She will never love you as much as she loved your father," "It's your fault your father is dead," "Your mother wishes you were dead instead of your father."), the frightening powers of the witch of fear, and a cold, chilly mother. Still, kids can find a brave role model in Emily, who perseveres in the face of more than a few harrowing situations.
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What's the story?
With a distant mother (Jenny Lampa) still grieving the loss of her husband, EMILY AND THE MAGICAL JOURNEY starts off seriously. Emily misses her father and must walk home alone from her basketball game and eat dinner with her babysitter (Harriet Slater). One night before bed, Emily ignores the rule of never going into her dad's office and library. Inside she finds his old drawings of Faunutland, a magical fantasy world of fairies and odd creatures. With the help of her imagination and the power of love in her heart, Emily is transported to her father's imaginary world. In the forest, she meets Nightinglar (Jenny Lampa), a fairy played by the same woman as Emily's mother. In Faunutland, she's a very quirky and optimistic fairy who maybe once could fly. She informs Emily that because she's a child and can still dream, she has the power to defeat fear and save Faunutland. Ever since the crystal powering Faunutland was lost, a witch has kept the land dark with fear. She has turned the once-children of Faunutland into wandering and aimless adults, bumbling about dressed in business attire. Only in the Well of Echoes can Emily recover the crystal, stop the witch, and find a way to restore Faunutland, its inhabitants, and its once great castle.
Is it any good?
This modestly-scaled adventure means well, but can be confusing and at times terrifying. With limited production values Emily and the Magical Journey is a short dream of a fairy tale but light on explication and exposition. Not much is revealed about the magical world of Faunutland, its creatures, or Emily's fairy guide, Nightinglar. Not much is explained either about how Emily's tears save Faunutland or why Faunutland's restoration causes Emily's mother to snap out of her mourning funk. The risk here is that this may suggest to kids that it's up to them to fix their parents' problems or sadness.
The positive messages of perseverance, courage, and importance of family mean well in this mini-fable, but are unfortunately often obscured by sudden tone shifts, moments of terror, and other confusing elements. The sudden back and forth between a serious and sad tone with a whimsical and magical one is startling and at times disturbing, like when Emily first heads into her father's office library and when Emily delves the cave inside the Well of Echoes. In the cave things get particularly scary as whispers increase in volume and in degree of horribleness: "You'll never make it," "It's all your fault," "Your mother doesn't love you," "She will never love you as much as she loved your father," "It's your fault your father is dead," and even, "Your mother wishes you were dead instead of your father." After enough, Emily breaks down sobbing and repeatedly yells, "Stop it!" Then without explanation the whispers stop, Emily recovers, grabs the crystal, and gets out of the Well of Echoes. This suggests that Emily's thing to overcome in the cave involved simply hearing and withstanding the horrible untruths?
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the story of Emily and the Magical Journey compares to other magical journeys like in The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, or Alice in Wonderland. Which journey is your favorite, and why?
What are some of the ways that Emily defies what's expected of her? What moments show Emily as brave and assertive?
Emily saves Faunutland by recovering a lost crystal and reviving it with her tears. What does the crystal represent? What do Emily's tears represent?
Do you think Emily's mother should have been more open with her feelings? Why or why not? What more could Emily's mother have done to make Emily feel less alone?
- On DVD or streaming: November 3, 2020
- Cast: Tipper Seifert-Cleveland, Jenny Lampa, Harriet Slater, Chelsea Edge
- Director: Marcus Ovnell
- Studio: Uncork'd Entertainment
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Fairy Tales
- Run time: 86 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: February 25, 2021
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