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A unicorn, an ancient curse, magical pearls, a blood feud, a forest haunted by bandits, and a bit of "Romeo and Juliet" romance (without the suicide). "The Secret of Moonacre" is something of a modern fairy tale, and Gabor Csupo films it in the style is deserves -- a lush, exquisitely magical little tale full of magic.

When her father dies, Maria Merrywether (Dakota Blue Richards) discovers that his debts have left her penniless -- all she inherits is a storybook about the Moon Princess and her magical pearls.

She and her governess are sent to live with Sir Benjamin Merryweather (Ioan Gruffudd), her grumpy uncle who lives in a vast decaying mansion. But soon Maria begins to realize that something strange is afoot -- it turns out the story of the Moon Pearls is true, and a strange young woman named Loveday (Natascha McElhone) warns her of what will happen in just a few days.

And along the way, she discovers that the Merryweathers and the bandit clan called the De Noirs have been at war over the pearls for centuries. However, the only way that Maria can find the pearls is by enlisting the help of Robin De Noir (Augustus Prew) -- and if she doesn't succeed, the entire valley of Moonacre will be destroyed.

"The Secret of Moonacre" is loosely based on Elizabeth Goudge's classic fantasy novel "The Little White Horse," although they take some hefty liberties in the name of drama. However, it's still a lovely little movie with a distinctly British flavor, as well as a mixture of wide-eyed optimism and the usual stuff about pride, getting along, love overcoming all, and so on.

The script is a mixed bag -- the dialogue has moments of banality ("It is not the pearls but the greed in our hearts which brings us this misery"), but also some enchanting humour ("How can I possibly go to live in the country? It's full of... the countryside!"). And a small warning: the De Noirs look like refugees from "A Clockwork Orange."

But the movie is worth getting if nothing else for the sets and scenery. Director Gabor Csupo paints the entire movie with lush magical forests, a bandit citadel with a dungeon, a bedroom with murals and a sea-bed, dusty old libraries and an overgrown kitchen where an elfin cook bounces around like a Lewis Carroll character. Nearly every scene looks like a pre-Raphaelite painting, and Csupo milks it of every ounce of fairy-tale beauty and magic.

And though this is only her second movie, Dakota Blue Richards easily takes center stage and gives a gutsy flair to her ladylike character. Gruffudd and McElhone are quite good as the grumpy aristocrat and the pretty hermit, and Tim Curry is sneeringly nasty as Coeur De Noir (although he seems totally lost in the last scene).

"The Secret of Moonacre" has some flaws, but it's still a charming little fairytale that enchants the senses and makes you feel warm'n'fuzzy. A lovely little treat.
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This movie is based upon a book which influenced JK Rowling. There are similarities between this movie and the Potter series.

1)Both have character names which fit the character. The "evil" people have a French name (dead English giveaway) De Noir.

2)Characters are quirky.

3) Maria, who is orphaned at an early age discovers she is of royal bloodline.

4) Both have magical objects such as a magic mirror.

5) Both have a secret book in a library.

6) Luna Lovegood was clearly based on Moonacre character Loveday.

Maria is orphaned and goes to live with her uncle, who is very cold to her and her caretaker, Ms. Heliotrope. While there, magical things happen and she is instructed not to go into the forest where the Du Noirs roam. (They all dress in black.)

You don't see too much of the unicorn and lion on the cover, but they are in the film.

This is a movie adults can enjoy watching with their kids and also one for people who enjoy the type of names and symbolism one sees in Harry Potter. The movie has magical devices, but unlike Potter there is no real spell casting witchcraft. There is also a Romeo and Juliet element to the story which is revealed about half way through.

A great film especially for young girls, but not so childish adults can't enjoy it. The best of all worlds.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon October 30, 2013
Young Maria Merryweather (Dakota Blue Richards of "The Golden Compass" fame) finds herself without a father. He leaves her a book that tells the tale of a feud between two families. As she reads, she finds that she is a member of one of the families and now must find the cause of the feud and correct this before her home known as Moonacre is destroyed forever.
There are many great actors in this film. I will not name them all. Yet one actor that stands out immediately is Tim Curry. Mr. Curry has been in more than 80 films including Muppet Treasure Island (1996) where he plays a professional "Long John Silver."
This movie has a nice title "The Secret of Moonacre" loosely based on the book "The Little White Horse" by Elizabeth Goudge. There are many movies with titles that look like they should belong to kid's books or viewable by children and turn out to be psychological thrillers on the dark side. However this time if the type of film you are looking for is the lighter fairytale child friendly movie you're in luck; this movie is a magical movie that is kid friendly. Still, it carries a message for us all.
Be sure to get the DVD or media that contains what is considered DVD extras as even though most of these are tedious. They do give you a better understanding of what the story is trying to tell.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 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.
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“The Secret of Moonacre” centers around an imaginative and inquisitive child named Maria who is learning to get along with her uncle. Maria is also figuring out how a mystical book that her late father left her ties into the family history. Maria’s life gets turned upside down and mystical experiences become more common in her life after meeting a woman who knew her uncle. The following actors and actresses are featured in “The Secret of Moonacre”: Dakota Blue Richards, Natashcha McElhone, Ioan Gruffudd, Juliet Stevenson,Tim Curry, Augustus Prew, Michael Webber, and Andy Linden. “The Secret of Moonacre” is an uplifting fantasy film.
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on November 11, 2010
I watched this movie with my 9 year old niece and we both enjoyed it. The sets and the costumes are superb, and the story is solid. Dakota Richards does a great job as the heroine in this film. Great movie for kids.
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on October 25, 2012
I'm only giving it a 4/5 because my kid likes it, but I was very disappointed. The actors were great, the sets, costumes were fantastic and the special effects were nice, but the script will be a disappointment to anyone who has read (and loved) the wonderful book The Little White Horse. I can see toning down the church stuff, but most of the changes had no purpose and saddened me greatly. Particularly the shift of Robin from an ally to an enemy.
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on July 23, 2013
Great movie
Totally recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy or family type movies! Its makes you laugh, adds just a touch of suspense, and is filled with mystery and magic!
Great cast, great story, all around a great movie :)
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on December 5, 2010
I enjoyed this movie and so did my Grand kids. It is worth a buy. It has a lot of good versus evil and ends up with a smile. Worth a look.
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on December 20, 2013
Un conte de fée avec de la magie, des bons, des méchants, et une fin heureuse que demander de plus.
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