The Flying Machine

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Flying Machine Movie Poster Image
Mixed-media movie celebrates life of Polish composer Chopin.
  • NR
  • 2013
  • 77 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

The entire movie, but particularly the second half, focuses on the life of Polish composer Frederic Chopin, whose "Etudes" Lang Lang plays and whose milestones are visited and celebrated by the kids in the story. The siblings (and later their mom) in the "flying machine" visit various places of significance to Chopin, while two characters reveal biographical trivia about his personality and idiosyncrasies (he had his hair professionally styled daily, loved high fashion, etc.).

Positive Messages

Aside from learning about the life of the celebrated composer Chopin, the message for families is firmly directed at workaholic parents. The take-away is that parents shouldn't let work distract them from their children, the way that Georgie did in the story.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Georgie's kids love their mother and want her to pay more attention to them. They don't care about her business dealings; they just want her to experience the music with them. Georgie experiences a change of heart about her attitude toward work-life balance after going on the magical adventure to find her children.

Violence & Scariness

Very young kids might be frightened by the separation between the animated daughter and her beloved father. "The Magic Piano" is a bit melancholy but has a happy ending.

Sexy Stuff
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Flying Machine is a movie commissioned to celebrate the life of Polish composer Frederic Chopin through a story that features his music and biographical trivia. The content is both educational and fine for the entire family, but there's a 30-minute animated movie-within-a-movie that contains no dialogue (though it does have separation between a girl and her father), so it might be a better fit for kids who can handle the wordless part of the story. Kids (and parents!) will not only learn a good bit about Chopin's life but also be reminded of the importance of work-life balance.

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What's the story?

The live-action framing story of THE FLYING MACHINE follows London-based single mom Georgie (Heather Graham), who's too overworked to put away her cell phone during a piano performance that she's dragged to by her kids -- tween Jane (Kizzy Mee) and young Fred (Jamie Munns). The performance consists of renowned Chinese pianist Lang Lang accompanying a stop-action animated short called "The Magic Piano" about a flying piano that takes two kids around Europe. After "The Magic Piano" ends, the film transitions back to live action, and Jane and Fred are sucked onto a "real" flying machine that travels to Chopin's birthplace and other significant locales. Georgie follows along on her own flying machine with Lang Lang present to play Chopin's "Etudes."

Is it any good?

There's a fairly considerable discrepancy in quality between the live-action framing story and the melancholy but beautiful animated short that's featured at the beginning of the movie. "The Magic Piano" is the wordless tale of a father who loses his home and is forced to install his young daughter with her little cousin, a boy who likes to dress like a vampire. After discovering a piano in an alley, the two cousins are off on their own fantastic journey, as the father longs to be reunited with his daughter. The touching story is beautifully accompanied by Chopin's music and ends memorably.

But once the story switches back to live action, it loses depth. Graham, who was once so charming an actress, overacts, while Lang Lang, her virtuoso sidekick as they follow the kids around Europe (in the air, naturally), strikes a series of exaggerated expressions. Jane narrates details about Chopin, who is after all the point of the movie, but viewers may wish that the entire film had been stop-action animated. Ultimately "The Magic Piano" is worth four stars and the mediocre live-action parts two -- so, as an average, this is a three-star film of particular value to budding pianists and animation fans.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about mixed-media movies. Can you think of examples of animated segments in otherwise live-action movies? Which ones worked well within the larger story? How does this one compare?

  • What did you learn about Chopin from The Flying Machine? Does it make you want to listen to more of his classical music? Consider listening to Chopin's most famous compositions as a family or reading one of several children's books or bios about his life.

  • The movie contains a "story within a story." What did you think of animated "The Magic Piano" segment? Which part of the movie did you like better -- the live action story or the dialogue-free animated tale?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love music and magic

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