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Mirrormask by Dave McKean (dir)
Review by Drew Bittner
Samuel Goldwyn Films movie  
Date: / Show Official Info /

Stephanie Leonidas .... Helena
Gina McKee .... Joanne
Rob Brydon .... Helena's Father/Prime Minister
Jason Barry .... Valentine
Dora Bryan .... Nan
Robert Llewellyn .... Gryphon

In Mirrormask, a young girl named Helena (Leonidas) helps her parents with their rundown circus, juggling and clowning and working wherever she's needed. But she is unhappy with her life, hiding in a world of drawings she's tacked onto the walls of her trailer. Where other children might want to run off and join the circus, she wants to run off and join real life.

When her mother falls ill, Helena blames herself. She and her father go to live with her eccentric Aunt Nan. Inactivity brings the circus to the brink of insolvency and things cannot last... but Joanne (the mother) will be going into surgery and then they will know what happens next.

Fate has other plans for Helena. She wakes up in a bizarre place where all of her drawings seem to have acquired a life of their own. In this world, there are two lands: the Bright Lands and the Dark Lands, each ruled by a Queen. The Bright Queen is dying and darkness is swallowing everything. And nearly everyone wears masks, making Helena a rare exception.

Helena wants only to get home, but the way lies through a missing artifact of tremendous power. Somehow, this object has gone missing, forcing Helena to undertake an epic quest to recover it. She faces book-eating sphinxes, floating giants and ill-tempered gryphons with the help of a hapless juggler and self-styled "very important person" named Valentine.

Something has gone badly wrong and the Dark Queen's shadows are not randomly smiting the Bright Lands; they also are seeking something. Helena is captured and brought to the Dark Lands, but what could the Dark Queen want with her? And what exactly is the Mirrormask?

Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean bring the power of their singular artistic gestalt to the screen in Mirrormask, an animated fable that harks back to fairy tales even as it tells a very modern story about adolescence, the price we pay to grow up, and the choices we face in deciding who we are going to be.

It's a masterpiece that recalls classics of film and literature such as Alice in Wonderland and The Talisman, as well as Gaiman's own novel Coraline. These associations do not dim the power of their accomplishment by any means; rather, Mirrormask is a postmodern fusion of these prior works. Produced by the Jim Henson Company for four million dollars, this movie is fit to stand alongside Henson's other releases like Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal-- it recalls the mythic power of those works while having plenty of its own to say.

Hopefully, the success of this movie will empower Gaiman and McKean to make more of these quirky, peculiar but enthralling movies.


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