The Phoenix and the Magic Carpet

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
The Phoenix and the Magic Carpet Movie Poster Image
Dated retelling of Phoenix myth has insults, bad acting.
  • PG
  • 1995
  • 88 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

As a "modern-day" retelling of the Phoenix story from mythology, there isn't much in the way of positive messages.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The Phoenix occasionally speaks wise words about the cycle of life, but, on the whole, the children in the movie don't venture far beyond the cliches of precocious kids with smart mouths.

Violence

Mild peril, as one of the boys falls from a great height off a magic carpet.

Sex

A young woman who works as a caretaker for three kids is shown workin in front of a poster of a male model with his shirt off and his jeans unbuttoned with the caption, "A Hard Man Is Good to Find."

Language

"Ass" and "hell." Some name-calling among siblings on the order of "dweeb" and "brace face."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Phoenix and the Magic Carpet is a 1995 movie starring Peter Ustinov as a phoenix discovered by three siblings living in their late grandparents' house. There is some sibling name-calling on the order of "dweeb" and "brace face," as well as "ass" being used by one of the kids. There also is a poster in the room of the young caretaker woman of a shirtless male model with his jeans unbuttoned with the caption "A Hard Man Is Good to Find." Aside from this, the gravitas Peter Ustinov tries to bring to this role is trumped by the cheesy special effects -- the phoenix looks less like a mythological bird and more like a store-bought Cornish game hen with a puppet head attached -- to say nothing of the grating and predictably precocious acting from the three children in the movie.

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What's the story?

Anthea, Robert, and Chris are stuck in their late grandfather's country home with no television to entertain them. While looking through their grandfather's old things, they come across a golden egg and a seemingly old carpet. But when they throw the egg on the fire, a phoenix (Peter Ustinov) rises from the ashes and shows the children that the old carpet is actually a magical carpet capable of taking them anywhere. They go to a tropical island, but when their caretaker Helga accidentally joins them on the journey, she is left behind on the island after the kids and the phoenix return. The kids' mother (Dee Wallace) is worried about Helga, and it's up to the kids and the phoenix -- with Helga's boyfriend in tow -- to return to the island, rescue Helga, and somehow protect the phoenix from the islanders' wicked designs on him.

Is it any good?

THE PHOENIX AND THE MAGIC CARPET is a dated '90s movie with bad child acting and cheesy special effects. Despite Peter Ustinov's best efforts at bringing gravitas to the role of the phoenix, his efforts are marred by a phoenix that looks less like a majestic mythological creature and more like a store-bought Cornish game hen with a chicken puppet head stuck on top. It's unintentionally hilarious, but it does cheapen the overall attempt to present a contemporary retelling of the classic myth.

The story itself is not bad, but the overall presentation prevents this from being better than it should have been. Aside from Ustinov, the acting is overdone and stale -- the three kids act precocious and over-annunciate stale putdowns. For families interested in mythology, this isn't the best place to start.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about adapting classic tales. How does this movie adhere closely to the mythological story of the Phoenix, and where does it take liberties?

  • Do you know the story of the Phoenix? Where could you learn more about the myth?

  • How does the acting of Sir Peter Ustinov contrast with the acting from everyone else in this movie?

Movie details

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