I hope the book was really good.
Because the movie was mediocrity personified. It wasn’t “charming”. It wasn’t “enchanting”. It was poorly cast and badly acted and painful to sit through. Now, I like Freddie Highmore in general — I loved him in Finding Neverland and Arthur and the Invisibles — but not in this role. His American accent was strained, and his high, soft voice had echoes of a voice actor from animated films whose identity I can’t place (perhaps it was even his performance in Arthur and the Invisibles that I’m recalling, though I’m thinking it’s a female-playing-a-boy voice that I’m trying to remember), giving it the feeling of having been badly dubbed. Had it just been his voice and acting, the movie might have been salvageable, but the rest of the acting was nearly as dull. And Martin Short’s very recognizable voice as the brownie Thimbletack really just further distracted from what could have been a really good story.
The special effects were adequate — but nothing marvelous. It’s hard not to compare it to other recent children’s fantasy movies like The Golden Compass and Chronicles of Narnia, both of which featured better acting and more convincingly portrayed the world of the movies with excellent sets and special effects. I also kept thinking of one of my favourite children’s fantasy books, Alan Garner‘s The Weirdstone of Brisingamen — I’d’ve been horrified if someone had turned that marvelous little book into something this blah.
Again, I hope the book was good. If the movie accurately mirrors the book, then that would mean the book is mediocre as well, and that would be the ultimate in disappointment. I’m a little reluctant to find out which is the case.
(As an aside, the whole fencing practice scene outside the house really annoyed me — if Mallory were really taking fencing lessons, the fencing master would have slapped her upside the head for using her sword on someone not wearing the proper safety equipment.)