Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.
United Kingdom/Hungary/Japan, 1991. Siriol Productions, Pannónia Filmstúdió, Sianel 4 Cymru, NHK, J&M Entertainment. Screenplay by Robin Lyons, based on the novel by George MacDonald. Produced by Robin Lyons. Music by Istvan Lerch. Production Design by Andrew Offiler, Wayne Thomas, Mike Wall. Film Editing by Magda Hap.
In order to be properly adapted to the big screen, George Macdonald’s original source material, one of the most delightful books ever written for youngsters, could definitely use a bit of a plot boost in the last third (it wouldn’t play well enough for film as written). The rest of the time, however, his marvelous book provides a number of set pieces that for some odd reason have been abusively changed or scrapped in favour of cheesy animated silliness in this uninspiring kids’ movie that adults will not be much entertained by. A princess lives in a remote castle, safely raised away from her father and taken care of by a nurse and a fairy grandmother (voiced by Claire Bloom). Their home is surrounded by evil goblins from the underworld who plan a takeover, but thankfully a heroic young miner is on hand to save our little heroine. In the novel, the sequence when the princess and her nurse are lost out in the woods and barely make it home in time is one of the most terrifying scenes in children’s literature, while the pages involving the grandmother have as much magical sweetness to them as they do an untenable sense of dread (though Victorian scholars will tell you that it is our cynical modern minds that impose this ambivalence on the character…as written she is nothing but benign). Nothing of that complexity is to be found here, as this film plays more like an episode of My Little Pony than any kind of junior Tolkien (the original novel was a heavy influence on The Lord of The Rings). It’s a shame, considering that Macdonald’s novel has rarely been attempted for the big screen and the opportunity is wasted.