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The Magician’s Elephant (2023)
Dare to believe
Director: Wendy Rogers
Animation
Adventure
Family
Fantasy

Peter is searching for his long-lost sister when he crosses paths with a fortune teller in the market square. His only question is: is his sister still alive? The answer, that he must find a mysterious elephant and the magician who will conjure it, sets Peter off on a journey to complete three seemingly impossible tasks that will change the face of his town forever.

The Magician’s Elephant (2023)

Layers

Any children’s movie runs the risk of easily being reducible to a ‘message’, often mistakenly called a moral. I’ve already read a few reviews of this that mention the film’s message, and how wonderfully it is presented.

I suppose if that is how you watch movies, this will deliver. It is heartwarming, and it does have the trope of a well meaning but difficult father, redeemed at the end.

But I think this is a bit more mature. It has a narrator whose identity is not revealed until midway, though we’ve been introduced to her character earlier. The character itself is another trope, the fairy godmother, but the way she weaves the story is complex enough to differentiate.

One of the layers — not subtle — is the ravage of war. War is permanent for all involved. Everything changes; there is no escape from this reality. I think this layer is well placed for my taste, better placed, say than Guillermo del Toro has it.

Magic plays a role in these things, and that’s layered here as well. We have the intrinsic magic of place. That’s rare in these stories. The fact the author has thought about this is the literal appearance of fairy tales in the story.

This ‘magic of place’ is different than what we’d see in grand sagas of the battle between good and evil. Here it is more like indigenous wisdom, it comes from the land.

And then we have the magic of the magician which is different in every way. It presumably has an ancient origin and is captured in spoken spells. This is powerful stuff indeed, but different. That the character in this story is inept is beside the point, simply one of the tumble of events that when laid out give us a plot.

And finally, we have the magic of narration, the one that trumps all. We have magic in the story and magic that drives the story. The narrator is the writer, and we see her change things around at the end. This layered magic: of place, of story, of wisdom… makes this enterprise different.

Favourite character? The nun who doesn’t believe in anything until she is reminded that she does. She’s based I think on Emma Thompson, which spins yet another layer in my heart.

Posted in 2023

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.

IMDB

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