Niko: The Journey to Magika

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Niko: The Journey to Magika Movie Poster Image
Bland animated adventure with bullying, demonic imagery.
  • NR
  • 2014
  • 100 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Discussion of facing one's fears and not running away from problems. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Niko is a kind boy who loves his grandparents and learns to stand up for himself against bullies. 

Violence

The lead character is bullied by a group of boys. He is frequently called a "loser," and is shoved and knocked to the ground. Cartoon violence and peril throughout. Demonic imagery may scare sensitive kids.

Sex
Language

Bullies continually call the lead character a "loser," and tell him "move your butt." 

Consumerism

The Mister Donut logo and Mister Donut products are featured prominently. At one point, the lead character says that Mister Donut is "[his] favorite." 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An adult briefly smokes a cigarette. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Niko: The Journey to Magika is a 2014 straight-to-Hulu animated feature about a boy who must venture into a strange land in order to rescue his grandparents. There is frequent bullying -- the lead character Niko is frequently called a "loser," has his lunch money taken away, and is tackled before nearly winning a running race. There is discussion of parental death -- Niko's parents died in a car crash when he was a baby, and his best friend Anna lost her mother when she gave birth to her. Demonic imagery and cartoon peril throughout makes this film problematic for younger viewers. 

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What's the story?

Niko lives with his kind grandparents in the Philippines, but he is constantly the target of bullies at school. When the bullies force Niko to meet them in the middle of a forest and set a large tree on fire, Niko does so, but the tree's vines come to life and kidnap Niko's grandparents and take them to a strange land called Magika. With the help of a girl from Magika named Anna, Niko ventures into this new place, where he meets an unusual group of characters, including a horse that talks like a surfer. When Anna's Uncle Milo tells Niko what ingredients he must collect in order to free his grandparents from being wrapped up in a tree's vines along with many other unconscious bodies, it's up to Niko to find these ingredients and get them out of Magika before it's too late. 

Is it any good?

Like so many animated features that are in the Disney vein but not made by Disney, much of NIKO: THE JOURNEY TO MAGIKA feels manufactured to fit a specific mold. There really is no need for the musical numbers, for instance, and the horse character talking like a surfer, like totally adds nothing, dude. The lead character, Niko, talks about his parents dying in a car crash when he was a baby, and this is dispensed with in a matter of seconds and not really brought up again. While the story itself isn't bad, all these pointless Disneyesque tropes are distracting at best and annoying at worst. 

That said, aside from Niko and his grandparents being likeable enough, nothing else stands out as being especially worthwhile or original in this movie. The demonic imagery is tailor-made to give young and more sensitive kids nightmares, and when the story veers away from its central plot, it can be needlessly confusing. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about bullying. How is bullying addressed in this movie? What should you do if you or someone else is being bullied?

  • How is this film similar to and different from other animated adventures in terms of story, imagery, music, and violence? 

  • Did the violence and demonic imagery seem necessary for the story or did it seem forced? 

Movie details

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