The Magician's Elephant
Child bravely faces danger in book-based tale of hope.
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The Magician's Elephant
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Magician's Elephant is an animated adaptation of best-selling author Kate DiCamillo's same-named book. Young Peter (voiced by Noah Jupe) is raised in scarcity, forced to eat "small fish and stale bread" every day. He's been told his sister is dead, but when a prophecy suggests she might be alive, he puts himself repeatedly in harm's way to find her. This involves a sword fight with a giant soldier and a challenge to fly from the rooftops of the tallest buildings. Other characters have also lost family members in war or been separated from them, and a woman is injured when an elephant falls on her. The elephant is kept in chains and has nightmares about being separated from her family. The king enjoys seeing people risking their lives or getting hurt. Peter helps his village -- depicted as a diverse community (and voiced by a mix of White, Black, British, American, Indian- and Chinese-heritage actors) -- see the beauty in possibility and regain its sense of hope and wonderment, with characters displaying courage and compassion throughout.
Wholesome family watch! No controversial agendas.
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What's the Story?
THE MAGICIAN'S ELEPHANT is the book-based story of Peter (Noah Jupe), a boy orphaned in war and taken in by a sergeant (Mandy Patinkin) who is raising him to be a good soldier. One day a fortune teller informs Peter that his sister is alive, and he can find her by "following the elephant." When a magician (Benedict Wong) comes to town and conjures an elephant, Peter sees his opportunity. Trouble is, the local countess (Sian Clifford) isn't willing to let the elephant go. When the fun-loving king (Aasif Mandvi) arrives, he offers to give Peter the elephant if the boy can surmount three difficult challenges. Peter is supported by his kindly neighbor Leo (Brian Tyree Henry). And unbeknownst to him, his sister Adele (Pixie Davies) is already in town, drawn by the presence of the elephant.
Is It Any Good?
This book adaptation offers a visually engaging take on a very sweet tale. Among the standout elements of The Magician's Elephant are the detailed buildings and cobbled streets of the colorful European-style village, and gorgeously haunting magic realist dreamscapes where both the elephant and Peter envision themselves flying or floating among loved ones. A moving moment comes when Peter is fed a warm, home-cooked meal for the first time. The look in the animated character's eyes says it all. Another memorable scene has the action stop while one character talks to the camera and walks between the others, all frozen in time. The film's themes of rekindling a sense of hope and wonder offer valuable messages for our times.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Peter's character. Do you think he's courageous or foolhardy in accepting the king's challenges? Why?
Peter shows great compassion for the elephant, and Leo shows compassion for Peter. Why is compassion for others an important character strength?
If you've read the book, how does this movie compare with it? What other book adaptations have you watched?
- On DVD or streaming: March 17, 2023
- Cast: Noah Jupe, Brian Tyree Henry, Natasia Demetriou
- Director: Wendy Rogers
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Book Characters, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Wild Animals
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Courage
- Run time: 103 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some action/peril and thematic elements
- Award: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: March 8, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio
Masterful but intense animated version is dark and scary.
Colorful, charming animated tale has positive messages.
The Tale of Despereaux
Touching, beautiful tale is an excellent family film.
The Magician's Elephant
Magical, inspirational story perfect for reading aloud.
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