A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Help I've Shrunk the Family is a 2014 Dutch (dubbed) live-action and CGI production, also known as Wiplala. It tells the magical story of a lonely young boy who discovers the title character, a tiny young man, living in his Amsterdam kitchen. Wiplala's supernatural powers are strong but spotty, owing to inexperience. When Wiplala feels threatened, he turns the family cat and a good friend to stone and, later, the boy, his sister, and dad are shrunk owing to his magical mistakes. Adventures featuring mild peril ensue as the four seek to undo the damage and help Wiplala gain the confidence to master his magic. Falling off a table, being stepped on by people, eaten by dogs, or snatched up by pigeons are all real threats to the family's safety. A man falls and breaks his arm. Tiny people drive a toy car recklessly through town. A clueless widowed father learns to appreciate his children. Someone says "damn," and the word "s--t" is uttered once.
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What's the story?
In HELP I'VE SHRUNK THE FAMILY, 8-year-old Johannes (Sasha Mylanus) is the victim of his widowed father's benign neglect and the open contempt of his mean older sister, Nella Della. Johannes' discovery of Wiplala, a magical little man hiding in the kitchen, unleashes the man's unreliable magical powers. The family cat and a neighbor are mistakenly turned to stone, and Johannes and family are shrunk to little-man size. Wiplala doesn't seem to know how to change them back. The neighbor stands as a large statue blocking traffic, and Johannes must save it from being taken away by the city and destroyed, which would kill the neighbor. Car chases and other forms of mild peril ensue. Ultimately Johannes and family realize that all Wiplala lacks is the self-confidence to reverse his magical errors. As they persuade him of his worth, they recognize how much nicer and more supportive they could also be to each other.
Is it any good?
This offbeat fantasy may sound like a knockoff of Honey I Shrunk the Kids, but it's actually an amusing tale based on a Dutch children's book. Help I've Shrunk the Family starts slowly, and some stilted dubbing makes everyone seem slow-witted at first. But patience pays off as the movie becomes the kind of child-pleasing dream fantasy reminiscent of Mary Poppins and The Indian in the Cupboard. The mischief of Wiplala, the helpful but temperamental sprite, eventually brings two shy lovers together and heals a family's wounds in a manner that will please younger tweens. Geza Weisz makes Wiplala a whimsical hero. Johannes, the thoughtful boy he befriends, looks enough like the Little Prince for that great character's aura to leave a mark on this story, too. As Wiplala heads back home to repair damage he's done there, he leaves Johannes his distinctive jacket, magically several sizes bigger. When Johannes puts it on at the end, it feels as if both the magic and his sense of self-confidence have been passed on forever into this boy's life.
One of the movie's obvious messages is: "Don't think, but do." While sometimes inspiring for those stuck in inertia, this advice might not be the wisest for children, whose frontal lobes (governing impulse control) are not yet fully developed.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the importance of home. Why do you think Wiplala wanted to go home? What are some other movies that deal with wanting to go home?
Nella Della was supposed to take care of her little brother. Why do you think she didn't want to?
Do you think magic is real? Is there really a Wiplala Land?
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