Upside-Down Magic

Movie review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Upside-Down Magic Movie Poster Image
Confident female lead stands out in book series adaptation.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 96 minutes

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 12 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 25 reviews

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We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

The movie intends to entertain, but there are standout messages about self-identity, confidence, and a positive self-image.

Positive Messages

Nory refuses to let what others think of her affect how she sees herself, and she encourages others around her to do the same. To challenge the status quo at school, she and her friends have to break some rules, but their efforts are for a good cause. Strong themes of teamwork, friendship, and individuality stand out in the story. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Nory is an excellent role model for viewers, demonstrating that it’s how you see yourself that is the most important thing, and refusing to conform to others’ expectations. Reina has a harder time and falls victim to questioning her own talents, but with Nory’s help, she overcomes her anxieties. Adults lead the charge in encouraging students to view UDMs with contempt, until an awakening changes their minds. The movie features a diverse cast. 

Violence & Scariness

A dark force possesses Reina and threatens to bring down the school and those in it. There are some worrisome moments when doom seems inevitable until help arrives. 

Sexy Stuff

No swearing, but some name-calling like "loser," "dumb," "dorks," "stupid." Also "butts." 


This movie is inspired by a series of books of the same title.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Upside-Down Magic is a movie inspired by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins' same-named book series. The film departs from the stories in several ways, but the crux of the plot is the same: Teenage Nory (Izabela Rose) and her best friend, Reina (Siena Agudong), overcome personal struggles as they attend a school for magical students. Nory's unwillingness to view what makes her different from her peers as a problem makes her a fantastic role model for kids. To get her point across, she challenges authority figures and the status quo -- but in this case, the ends certainly justify the means. A few scenes show a teen possessed by a foreboding force that eventually consumes her and threatens everyone else, but actual scares are few, and a happy ending awaits. There's no swearing, but you can expect some name-calling, like "loser," "dumb," "dorks," and "stupid," as well as "butts." Watching the movie may encourage kids to check out the books, if they haven't already.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byBooksareBetter August 1, 2020

Disney Movies have gone down hill

My daughter read all of the UDM books and I read the first book in the series. We were excited to see the movie and went into it knowing it would be different b... Continue reading
Adult Written byOscars Mom July 31, 2020

Terrible lessons for kids

The show departs significantly from the books. The books ensure a safe and thoughtful environment for the UDM kids to learn to control their UDM. The show has t... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byPackerMovieReviews November 13, 2020

This was absolute garbage

This movie was a waste of my time. Good gracious! I'll never get that 5760 seconds back into my life. I was never down for watching this but ended up watch... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old August 16, 2020

REALLY bad...

The move isn't at all like the books. In the books, Reina isn't a character, flickers turn stuff invisible, Pepper in an upside-down fuzzie, Elliot is... Continue reading

What's the story?

In UPSIDE-DOWN MAGIC, 13-year-old Nory (Izabela Rose) and her best friend, Reina (Siena Agudong), share a very special talent  -- both have magical powers! Reina can conjure and manipulate fire, and Nory can transfigure into animals. Well, she can transfigure into unusual combinations of animals, that is, and Reina can beckon flames when her confidence is high, but no matter. As the BFFs head off to Sage Academy to study magic and further their skills, Nory's excitement helps Reina see past her nerves . . . until things go awry when the students test for placement in their respective schools. Reina earns a spot among the Flares (no surprise there), but Nory finds herself in a class of misfits called UDM -- Upside-Down Magic -- under a mentor who's tasked with teaching them everything BUT magic so as to eradicate their nonconforming and unusual skills. As Nory rallies her new friends to challenge Headmaster Knightslinger's (Vicki Lewis) status quo, Reina battles demons of her own that could spell disaster for the school and everyone in it.

Is it any good?

This book adaptation does a solid job bringing these likable characters to the screen, even if the telling falls into the campy now and again. Nory is everything a parent hopes a child will be at 13; she's self-confident, articulate, determined, and totally OK with being a little outside the norm. What "The Sage Way" deems to be wrong, Nory embraces as her own unique style to be celebrated and cultivated. In so doing, she inspires her fellow social outsiders to see past others' notions of them and to like themselves just as they are. Ultimately this proves valuable not just to the UDMs but also to their entire community and affects positive and lasting change in the school.

Upside-Down Magic's structural similarities to the Harry Potter series will be obvious to many, but the story's content caters to a slightly younger audience than most of the Hogwarts-based stories. There are few scares here and plenty of silliness to keep the feel very lighthearted, even in those moments when a dark force threatens. This movie is a fun means of blending screen entertainment with reading lure, and Nory's exceptional character leaves viewers with a positive sense of the value of individuality in a world that demands conformity.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk why the school's bias against Nory and the other UDMs exists. Are we often frightened by what is different from us? Why is it important to respect what makes each of us unique? How can our differences prove to be a strength, as they do in Nory's case?

  • In what ways does Nory challenge authority in a respectful way in Upside-Down Magic? Have you noticed any other characters in books and movies standing up for themselves? 

  • Which characters stand out to you for strengths like integrity and courage? In what ways is Reina brave in this story? Does having courage always mean that a person succeeds at what she is attempting to do? How can courage be seen in defeat as well?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love magic

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

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