Saturday, May 27, 2006

THE THIEF LORD - charming live-action kids flick

THE THIEF LORD is a charming live-action children's movie based on the popular novel by Cornelia Funke. Neither I nor my god-daughter have read the novel, but judging CURIOUS GEORGE a little too young, we opted for this flick instead. We went in with zero expectations but both found it captivating. The story takes all the familiar strands from classic children's fiction. We have two young brothers, Prosper and Boniface. They have been orphaned, and their evil aunt and uncle opted only to adopt the younger brother - six year old Bo. So, one night, Prosper helps Bo escape and they head to Venice, for no better reason than that their late mother always told them magical fairytales about the city. In Venice they are taken in by a group of orphans who hide out in a dis-used cinema (!) led by the enigmatic Thief Lord, Scipio. However, all is not as it seems. Scipio is desperate to become an adult, the evil Uncle and Aunt have hired a private detective to track our heroes down, and a shadowy Count wants the gang to steal a wooden wing from a kindly photographer. Much of the film consists in young kids outwitting mean and/or kindly adults and finding their way to a magical roundabout on a secret island in the lagoon. This fantastic fairytale is brought to life by a quite amazingly good cast of children. In particular, the little kids who play Bo (Jasper Harris) and young Ernesto (Zak Davies) are alternately heart-breaking and hysterical. We also have, somewhat bizarrely, Alexei Sayle and Vanessa Redgrave chewing up the scenery as a corrupt shopkeeper and a nun respectively. This movie is not rocket-science, but I am not sure why it has received such a harsh reception from the critics. I would strongly recommend it to kids (and adults) who love stories about magic and fantasy.

THE THIEF LORD was released in Germany and Austria this January and is now on release in the UK. There is no scheduled release date for the US, France or Australia.

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