“Too Old for Fairytales” is an aimless, amiable coming-of-age ramble about a video game addict who has to grow up — at least a little — when his mother gets sick.
It’s a harmless and not utterly charmless Polish kids’ dramedy (subtitled, or dubbed into English) of The Big Game genre — a video game team hoping to win The Big “Robot Masters” e-sports tournament. But there’s stuff about learning to think of others, getting over being “spoiled,” getting that first crush, coping with bullies and figuring out life is better lived when you add some balance to it, blended in.
Maciej Karas is Waldek, our hero and narrator. He’s a tween deep into first-person-shooter online games and doted-on by his single mom (Karolina Gruszka). With her cooking for him, dressing him and walking him to school — not even letting him cross the street by himself — he’s got all the time in the world to practice his sport and dream of gaming glory, the spotlight, “hordes of fans…and GROUPIES.”
That part of the dream is shared with his BFF Staszek (Patryk Siemek), who has “gone all hormonal” and girl crazy. They just lost a local tourney, but no worries. The BIG one is a month away.
But Mom is giving him and us a lot of worried looks. She’s summoned her no-nonsense/all-nonsense hippie aunt (Dorota Kolak) to stay with Waldek, because Mom is headed to the hospital “for tests.”
The coddled kid may not have a clue what that means. All he can see is this major disruption in his life right before his Big Tourney. Goofy Aunt Mariola makes him step away from his games and take bike rides. And that’s not all.
“I have to DRESS myself? I have to FEED myself? I have to walk ALONE to school? I have to cross the STREET by myself?”
Wait’ll he tells mom that he’s dozing off at the computer from exhaustion, that a team member quit on him and that he’s breaking a sweat for the first time in his life thanks to this flakey aunt who has this skydiving-simulator rig she uses to hang from the ceiling and go to her happy place.
Waldek and Straszek will have to recruit (“cast”) a new member for their “Three Kings” team. It might be an older player, maybe a younger one, possibly a girl (“No WAY!”) or even a gamer whose online image is a voice-disguised giant ant avatar.
And Waldek has to learn life lessons, to think about others and care for their needs, to “cut (someone’s) fear in half” by shouldering part of their burden, to learn the difference between good lies and bad ones and how to be a man from his grandpa (Andrzej Grabowski), who appears in the third act.
Kolak’s dizzy auntie character is pleasant enough, but not remotely hilarious or “larger than life” gregarious the way such figures typically turn up in movies.
The jokey handling of meeting and competing for Waldek’s first crush (Amelia Fijalkowska) is cute, if not exactly original. All the ways the movie makes the kid grow up, with a healthy dose of “No more hugs, shake hands LIKE A MAN” lecturing, play as kind of traditional if not downright old fashioned.
And the story arc’s limited parameters mean we know most of what’s coming, with our guesses predicated on how locked-in the need for “happy endings” is for this “fairy tale.”
All of which inspire the label “harmless, not utterly charmless.”
Cast: Maciej Karas, Dorota Kolak, Karolina Gruszka,
Patryk Siemek, Amelia Fijalkowska and Andrzej Grabowski
Credits: Directed by Kristofer Rus, Scripted by
Agnieszka Dabrowska, based on her novel. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:46