Man, what was in that brownie I finished off lunch with?
“The Magical Journey” plays as some kind of half-arsed, trippy flashback to the Bad Old Days of Eastern Bloc children’s cinema.
It’s a kids fantasy with a trio of well-known Western actors taking a paid vacation to Ukraine to make it. They’ve suffered for their art, now it’s our turn. Let’s hope Jean Reno, Virginie Ledoyen and Saul Rubinek‘s checks cleared.
“Magical” is set at a Ukrainian film studio where a little girl learns of the perilous path her mother took — at age 12 — to ensure that she inherited the soundstage complex instead of having it fall into the hands of her evil aunt (Severija Janusauskaite).
The costumes looks like community theater cast-offs, the sets like unfinished cable TV kids’ show backdrops and the acting and effects are strictly student film quality.
The script? That ’70s flashback analogy suits. It’s inane and banal and dubbed, sometimes overwhelming the viewer with trite dialogue — “Save the princess from the Evil Queen!” — and often doing that Eastern Bloc political incorrectness thing about the differently-abled to tone deaf perfection.
“We already have one deaf-mute. Who needs another?” Yeah, shout that line at the limping, one-leg-shorter-than-the-other villain.
As a child, Polina (Polina Pechenenko) escapes from her cruel Aunt Varvara and creepy one-leg-shorter-than-the-other limping cousin (Eloy Alfaro Verstraeten) in search of her past, thanks to a fragment of a photo she found of her father (Wim Willaert).
Dad’s just gotten out of prison and he’s searching — violently — for his daughter.
Polina crashes the family movie studio, and is given a quest from a vision (Jean Reno) from “the other side of the screen.” Her “incomplete movie” must be completed by finding the rest of the tattered parts of the photo. She will journey from a war movie set to a tiny tots in school horror tale, to a Viking movie, etc., getting help from assorted characters in movies she encounters along the way.
Rubinek plays the studio chief, and others from the “real” world take on new guises in this “movie in my mind” Polina is playing a part in.
A six year-old child might be able to figure that out. But let’s have mom explain what we just saw unfold on the screen in voice-over, because that’s what incompetent movie makers always do — assume the viewer is as slow on the uptake as they are.
“The actors of the movie I was imagining were the same exact people I had met that very morning.” Get it? If not, Mom adds, “They were just playing different roles in my film.”
About 15 minutes were whacked off “Journey” to make it releasable in the US, and to compensate for all the content and plot that was lost, the mother-voice-over-narrating-to-daughter gets insanely out of hand.
The one good sequence involves Polina getting help from a tweenage girl boxer (complete with cornrows) in a clever-staged, choreographed and effects-assisted boxing match with a guy three times her height and six times her weight — “Goliath.”
The rest? Rubbish.
Rating: unrated, a little violent, with insensitive treatment of handicapped characters, etc.
Cast: Polina Pechenenko, Severija Janusauskaite, Virginie Ledoyen, Wim Willaert, Saul Rubinek and Jean Reno
Credits: Directed by Olias Barco, scripted by Olias Barco, Saul Rubinek and Anouchka Walewyk. A Blue Fox release.
Running time: 1:20