I am so tired.
Part of me just wants to go offline here until the new SpiderVerse movie; but I need to keep my reviewing skills sharp…Especially since the movie is allegedly featuring a jealousy sublot between Miles and Spider-Punk, and involves writers from Netflix’s Voltron: Legendary Defenders and we all know what a clusterfuck that was.
But – let’s focus on something different today. We’re going to talk about an underwhelming mediocre Netflix animated film! I’ll keep this short, sweet and to the point: The Magician’s Elephant will probably keep your youngest entertained but it offers so little in return. If you want a fairytale-like movie, based on a children’s books there are plenty of better options out there.
A young orphan named Peter swears he remembers his younger sister, even though his guardian, a former soldier, said she and his mom died in childbirth. All he has to go off of are the words of a fortune teller who said, “Follow the elephant.”
When a magician makes an elephant appear on stage, Peter takes it as an opportunity to find his sister. And in order to take custody of the animal, he must complete three impossible tasks.
So — at least the animation and art style were solid. Nothing overly impressive, but nothing horrid either. There’s a lot of diversity in the character designs, which I appreciated – but other than that there’s not a lot to really comment on.
The concept of a young boy finishing impossible tasks to find his lost sister in a world where magic has disappeared, is fundamentally solid and interesting. The execution is okay – but the first two solutions basically rely on coincidences. The protagonist, Peter, relies on luck and maybe a bit of brains. It’s not compelling.
I get it’s a kid’s movie and the plot is about rediscovering the ‘magic within’ or some crap like that – but the magic aspect takes a secondary seat. I honestly forgot that this world had magic at some point, because it just feels like a plot device to get the elephant there. I almost think I would have preferred it if Peter discovered he had actual magical powers and used those…
And so much of the world is told to us. There is a narrator, who is also supposedly a fortune teller who gives Peter the clue…And you know how I feel about narrators. I understand that they can give a movie a more storybook like feel – but most of the time it’s lazy and a way to establish your world without actually doing any work in the narrative.
The fact that the nation was at war is mentioned, and while the land is struggling to recover in some ways and Peter’s foster dad is a former soldier — it again just feels like it was there to make the plot happen and not because the movie was interested in exploring the aftermath of war.
Maybe the book does it better?
The movie is just…dull. Aside from one moment between Peter and Adele when they’re unaware they’re siblings where Peter suddenly insults her and she punches him in the arm and they’re both shocked by their own behavior – there’s not really any funny moments. I like the idea of the sibling instinct being something natural. But that’s literally my favorite part of the movie.
And it isn’t worth watching the movie for that part alone.
And that’s the scoop.
Grade: C –
Release Year: 2023
Length: 100 minutes
Book by: Kate DiCamillo
Director: Wendy Rogers
Screenplay by: Martin Hynes
Producer: Julia Pistor
Voice Actors: Noah Jupe, Mandy Patinkin, Natasia Demetriou, Benedict Wong, Miranda Richardson, Aasif Mandvi