A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although there's some potentially scary creature imagery in this fantastical plunge into a post-modern Wonderland, it's more weird and playfully grotesque than ugly or horrific. A menacing queen who sprouts black tentacles (through her mouth at one point) is the worst of it. Some young viewers may just be more confused about the otherworldly events and warped logic than scared or otherwise upset.
What's the story?
Produced by the Jim Henson Company and penned by cult sci-fi writer Neil Gaiman, MirrorMask is a sometimes-bewildering takeoff on Alice in Wonderland, with a saucier heroine. Helena (Stephanie Leonidas), a teen juggler in her parents' small circus, tires of the big top and angrily wishes she had a "real life." After her mother falls ill, Helena finds herself in a carnival-like dream-world, populated by masked people and other weird creatures. She's been pulled into a parallel dimension, linked to ours through her own surreal sketches. In this other world, the balance between light and darkness has been disrupted by a missing princess -- for whom Helena is mistaken. The Queen of Light is in a coma, and the Queen of Darkness is destroying everything with her wrath. The only hope of restoring this bizarre place to "normality" is the missing MirrorMask.
Is it any good?
The film's diffuse dialogue brims with curious allusions to both classic mythology and newfangled Gaiman-esque fantasy stuff, puns and metaphors sprung to life. Every so often, the Jim Henson Company partners up with some outside talent to produce a non-traditional "Muppet" movie. These ventures are usually creature-heavy fantasies that swap Kermit and Fozzie for high imagination, cool designs, memorable visuals ... and mixed reception by the public. MIRRORMASK mixes avant-garde, computer graphic "puppets" with the writing skills of Neil Gaiman, whose works typically feature eccentric alternate worlds and mystic beings.
Viewers will be forgiven if they're a bit baffled about the whys and hows of the story -- it's easy to get a bit lost amid the dialogue. You have to be pretty quick on the uptake to figure out what the "future fruit" is, among other things. For parents and children who love fantasy and have both patience and a sense of adventure, it's fun to explore this fractured fairyland. But when the dark queen declares "Enough of this nonsense!" -- less-invested viewers might be inclined to agree.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's messages about growing up and acceptance. Do kids "get" those themes when they watch? How is the "anti-Helena" different from the real Helena? Parents, the film is full of literary and mythological allusions (like the Riddle of the Sphinx) -- see how many your kids can identify. Being familiar with that type of subtext may also help them appreciate the complex paradoxes and dense oddities in the somewhat similar Lewis Carroll stories Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.
- In theaters: October 28, 2005
- On DVD or streaming: February 14, 2007
- Cast: Gina McKee, Jason Barry, Stephanie Leonidas
- Director: Dave McKean
- Studio: Sony Pictures
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy
- Run time: 101 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some mild thematic elements and scary images.
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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