Mirrormask (Denmark; 100 min.)

directed by: Dave McKean
starring: Stephanie Leonidas; Gina McKee; Rob Brydon
Michael says: "The visually spectacular fantasy by the comic world’s rock gods Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman has been getting very mixed reviews. Critics are comparing it to Alice in Wonderland and LABYRINTH for its tale of a young girl on the verge of adolescence who finds herself in a bizarre fantasy world coupled with the use of Jim Henson’s puppets. Gaiman (author of the Sandman comics) wrote the screenplay from a story he developed with designer/director Dave McKean (illustrator of the Sandman comics’ surreal covers). Superficially the story is pretty simple; it’s a classic fairy tale. Helena juggles in the circus which is run by her parents. She’s tired of the circus life and wants to run away and live a normal life. Shortly after a nasty argument, Helena’s mother collapses and is rushed to the hospital. Wracked with guilt, Helena finds herself in a bizarre dreamworld where the bordering kingdoms of light and dark are having a bit of trouble. Helena seems to hold the key to saving both this dreamworld and her own personal world she left behind.

"People have been critical of Gaiman’s story calling it simplistic, obvious, childish. MIRRORMASK is actually a wonderful story for pre-teen girls. It features a strong, fully-realized adolescent girl as a protagonist. It’s smart and doesn’t talk down to young people. It’s filled with Gaiman’s trademark wit. It IS a fairy tale, and if you’re not looking for that, then you’ll be disappointed.

"Of course, it’s designer/director Dave McKean who steals the party in MIRRORMASK. With film being an even more visual medium than comics, McKean’s surreal and wacky imagination comes fully to life. Henson’s puppet factory combines with CGI to create bizarre felines with human faces; cute yet exceedingly strange monkey-birds, and slow-speaking orbiting giants. Springing from collage and drawing, McKean’s work has a jagged, layered look, and in a world where everyone wears a mask, he does some amazing things around people’s faces.

"Stephanie Leonidas acquits herself well as Helena, and I dare anyone to deny that she is not a young-Helena Bonham Carter on screen. Gina McKee does some nice work as Helena’s mother/Queen of Light/Queen of Darkness. All in all, MIRRORMASK is an enjoyable experience that’s growing on me. 3 ½ cats."

Scot says: "I dunno. I think it’s better than even that. It’s not something I’ll tell my grandchildren at bedtime, but like Michael said, it’s not condescending to children. And I think the moral is more sophisticated than most fairy tales… that is, both children and parents have an obligation to act like decent human beings during the crazy adolescent period. And it’s pretty stunning, visually.

"And young Helena Bonham C-- , I mean, Stephanie Leonidas, delivers a pretty mature performance. Especially for the genre. 4 cats"