HERE COMES THE GRUMP. Voiced by: Toby Kebbell, Lily Collins, and Ian McShane. Also voiced by Keith Wickham, David Holt, Emma Tate, and Amy Thompson. Directed by Andres Couturier. Rated PG (Mild drug innuendo). 97 min.
This Mexican-British-American production is based on the animated series “Here Comes the Grump” which was released briefly for television in the late 1960s on NBC. The film has been released in the United States in 2018 under the name of “A Wizard’s Tale”.
This is a fantasy-adventure story in which a young boy named Terry (Toby Kebbell) finds himself in the colourful, magical kingdom of Groovynham where “smiling” and “laughter” have disappeared. It is not the kingdom that his grandmother used to describe when she told him fantasy stories about the same kingdom as a young boy. His mission is to rescue happiness for his grandmother, whose fun park, which she owns, lacks happiness entirely, and is in grim disarray. His grandmother faces ruin unless he can do something about it.
Terry enters the fantasy world that his grandmother had told him about, and he searches for a way that will return the kingdom to happiness. He is joined in his quest by Princess Dawn (Lily Collins), who mistakes him in the fantasy world as her Prince Charming. Together, they try to create change that will bring happiness again to Groovynham.
Along the way they have adventures with strange creatures in the land. They come across police dragons, wizards, and hipster balloon people, all providing a distinctive level of fantasy-animation to fit high adventure-action.
The spell that sent happiness out of the land was cast by a mean wizard called “The Grump” (Ian McShane), who has been terrorising the land of Groovynham ever since. He once had a beloved girlfriend, and she broke his heart years before when he was a young wizard. The plot as it unfolds tells us that Terry is The Grump’s grandson, and in the fantasy tale, Princess Dawn manages to work through her mistaken perception of Terry as her Prince Charming. Complexities abound, allowing the narrative elements of the movie enormous scope to expand in any direction.
This is an unusual fantasy tale, nostalgic for the past, and using modern-looking eccentric characters to convey its messages. It is full of instant action, and whimsical fantasy. Overall, it aims to establish “love and happiness” as the key to making sure Groovynham will return to happy times. That is an especially broad goal to pursue, and the movie needed more narrative threads to cohere around the core message that Andres Couturier, the film’s Director, wants to communicate - one that aims to drive the overarching theme of happiness imaginatively home.
The movie’s animation style almost entirely lacks the smartness of Pixar Studio productions, like “Up” (2009) and “Inside Out” (2015), which are much more intelligently scripted. The film is forced to rely mostly on the pace and vibrancy of its visuals. Some of its fantasy creations are particularly impressive - like the predatory Christmas trees that use their twinkling lights to trap their victims.
The high action content of the film may appeal to children. The movie is virtually a kaleidoscope of colour and form and creative lay-out designs. But the movie is too loosely organised to appeal greatly to adults, who are bound to want more logic in the continuity of its various scenarios.
This is not a great animation film, but an unusual one. Its animation style is distinctive; its story-line is full of full throttle fantasising; and its imagery is extremely vivid and colourful. However, the film lacks narrative coherence, and its pacing of scenes is too frenetic.
With all its colourful action, the film may keep young cinema-goers absorbed, but their parents will not be so inclined. Parents will disapprove especially of the drug connotations of one of the film’s scenes, which seems altogether unnecessary to support the film’s central positive thrust.
Peter W. Sheehan is Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting
StudioCanal Pty. Ltd.
Released August 1, 2019