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A film geared to the younger set
on September 21, 2012
The Secret of Moonacre(released Feb/09)stars Dakota Blue Richards(The Golden Compass)as Maria Merriweather,Tim Curry as Coeur de Noir,Natascha McElhone as Loveday,and Ioan Gruffudd as Sir Bejamin Merryweather.This film is based on the childrens book by Elizabeth Goudge called"Little White Horse".It is a good adaption of the book but the film has a decided lack of surprise or other elements that might keep the older set involved.The characters are quite plainly set apart from each other,the good in white and the bad in black.Even Tim Curry's name translates as Heart of Black,nothing startling here.
The plot involves young Maria whose father gets killed and is sent to live in the country with her uncle.She is left a large book "The Ancient Chronicles of Moonacre Valley",which she begins to read.By the time she reaches her uncle he has immediately confiscated it and put it away in a secret compartment in his library.The uncle is none too pleased to meet Maria,and her nanny who also tags along.The uncle introduces Maria to a horse and dog who are on the property and warns her not to enter the forest.Of course for a young a girl,anything verbotten is suddenly put on the to-do list.She enters the forest and gets taken by some bandits who live there.
Through the reading of the aforementioned book we learn that the characters in the book parallel the ones she keeps encountering in real life.Long ago a lady,pure of heart and soul,was due to marry her true love.However a string of enchanted pearls given her by the Moon,reveals the darkness in the heart of not only her father-in-law to be,but her husband to be.The wedding is stopped and the valley of Moonacre,and the mansion where Maria now resides,has been under a curse since then.It will take another pure of heart to reunite the people of the forest and those that reside in Moonacre.But this must be done before the 5000th moon comes around,which happens to be that night.
It seems Maria is the chosen one,so to speak and the forest bandits want the enchanted pearls of the legend,and believe Maria can lead her to them.Maria indeed finds them but is dogged by all the bandits,but one.The bandit leaders son has fallen for Maria and together they follow their noses and end up on a promontory with castle ruins.All main characters are there and it is make or break time for Maria,who has pearls in hand.She first throws the necklace off the cliff only to have it come back to her.As the moon approaches she breaks the necklace and throws them piecemeal into the water,but they come back and attach themselves to her dress.Finally she jumps in to the water.Suddenly a wall of water in the distance rises up with horses galloping at top speed toward the cliff.There is a huge splash and a unicorn appears,with Maria on its back.Maria has successfully lifted the curse and saved Moonacre.
The film is chock full of different creatures such as unicorns,a lion,and a large black dog.But even these cannot quite lift this film out of the pedestrian feel,look and pace it has.This film would have been more successful about 40-50 years ago,but now with all the technology and myriad of extremely smart childrens books that have been put to celluloid,this one just seems so antiquated in its theme.As I say,it may interest the small fry(pre teens)but not the adults nearly as much.
Technically speaking the film is in its w/w a/r of 2:35:1 and is clear and crisp.Extras include a featurette,interviews with the cast,deleted scenes,extra behind the scenes footage and the trailer.
All in all a simple,old school plot about good vs evil,a girl with an old book who must unite the characters she reads about,who are also in the now.It has a magical quality and the production values are high,but in the end it is geared much more towards the small fry in your family.