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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
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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?
- On DVD or streaming: November 10, 2020
- Cast: Siena Agudong, Izabela Rose, Vicki Lewis
- Director: Joe Nussbaum
- Studio: Disney Channel Original Movies
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Book Characters, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character strengths: Courage
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: November 11, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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