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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 36.62%
Average: 21.13%
Pretty Bad: 1.41%
Total Crap: 1.41%

7 reviews, 29 user ratings

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by Scott Weinberg

"Be prepared to be dazzled."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2005 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean's "MirrorMask" is a stunningly cool example of how to take inspiration from a handful of sources...while somehow still forging something astonishingly unique, challenging and magical. It's absolutely one of the most original fantasy films I've seen in years, and I wouldn't be surprised to see "MirrorMask" gracing my year-end Top Ten list.

If I offered the opinion that MirrorMask is an amalgamation of Alice in Wonderland, The NeverEnding Story, The Wizard of Oz, Labyrinth, M.C. Escher & Tim Burton, you'd probably be pretty intrigued...if not all that convinced of the film's unique vision and startling presentation. But despite clear "inspiration" from these and numerous other sources, MirrorMask still stands as a powerfully original composition. It's playful, dark and mysterious. It's got a few simple little morals, it's amazingly gorgeous to look at, and it's effortlessly enthralling for 90-some straight minutes. Much of the movie feels comfortably familiar...yet it's certainly unlike anything you've ever seen before.

Perhaps a bit too bizarre for fans of the mainstream fantasy movies, this movie is an absolute cult classic waiting to happen. Equal parts wild adventure and lyrical allegory, MirrorMask puts many of its genre brethren to shame. It's not afraid to delve into true "weirdness," and this approach also serves as a sort of filtering process: make it through the first 30 minutes without rolling your eyes or scratching your head, and you're well on your way to falling in love with this adorably insane movie.

As the film opens, we're visitors at an eclectic little circus show. Our focal point is 15-year-old Helena, whose Mum & Dad run the Fellini-esque affair. More than a little weary of the circus life, Helena vents her displeasure by way of a rather unsavory argument with her mother. The verbal sparring ends with the most regrettable of childish exclamations: she wishes her mother were dead. A few short minutes later, Mom collapses backstage and is rushed to the hospital.

Mother's ailment is never referred to in specific terms, but it's pretty clear that her medical situation is pretty dire indeed. Racked with guilt and overwhelmed with concern for her Mom, Helena falls asleep one dark & rainy night....and awakens to find herself in an alternate world full of bizarre creatures, stunningly alien landscapes, and (of course) one clear mission: she must recover a magical charm that will allow the White Queen to awaken from her coma-like slumber.

To focus on the specific details of Helena's arcane adventures would undoubtedly rob you of discovering much of MirrorMask's beauty, and much of this movie is about the sheer joy of discovery. On the surface the movie works as a rousing A-to-B-to-C quest adventure, but it's mounted with such a dizzy devotion to unpredictable weirdness...this movie would never be produced by Hollywood. Ever. The symbols, metaphors and morals are clearly constructed and astutely realized. MirrorMask is a movie for children (and children-at-heart) who don't appreciate being talked down to.

The special effects technology used to bring this world to life are nothing short of dazzling. Computer-generated material is melded seamlessly with phenomenal practical effects (as if you'd expect anything less from the mad geniuses at Jim Henson Studios), and all of the astonishing bells & whistles are built upon a foundation of sincere heart, wit and unceasing creativity. The human performers are uniformly excellent across the board; the flawless lead performance by young Stephanie Leonidas is an anchor that's absolutely integral to something this fanciful. Without a true focal point of actual humanity, MirrorMask would be little more than a flashy fireworks display. That this wonderful actress commands your constant attention, despite being surrounded by some of the most peculiar creatures and locations ever created, is a testament to both the performer and the filmmakers. With a less talented actress, MirrorMask would still be quite cool, but it just wouldn't have the same heart and soul.

Frankly, I'm not a good enough writer to adequately describe all the wild magic that Gaiman and McKean have concocted here. Suffice to say that MirrorMask had me wide-eyed and practically hypnotized...kinda like we all were the first time we saw The Wizard of Oz. It's a movie that will undoubtedly have many viewers scratching their heads in disbelief, because MirrorMask is as bizarre as it is beautiful. Essentially we're talking about a film that's bound to become an "acquired taste" - which in movie terminology means "cult classic." Personally, I cannot wait to get a copy of the DVD and dissect the thing bit by bit. I only hope that many of you end up feeling the same way.

Somewhat beholden to some of the finest fantasy stories ever conceived, yet still more than fresh and unique enough to stand on its own, "MirrorMask" is one of the most thrillingly addictive adventures I've had in years. Hats off to superlative artists Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean for constructing something this endearingly odd and utterly enjoyable. Movies like this give me renewed hope for movies in general, and for that I'm very appreciative indeed.

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originally posted: 01/29/05 05:33:11
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User Comments

3/21/17 Katja Total eye candy, even the real life parts; genuinely funny and touching. Weak story though. 5 stars
11/13/13 Vanessa Campos Interesting movie to look at, the story was ok but I ended up liking the music more. 4 stars
9/19/11 Quigley Not the best fanatsy film ever, but it really holds you in its grasp. Helena is gorgeous. 4 stars
2/03/10 jcjs33 incredible, never seen such a unique, lovely, film of this type, awesome 5 stars
9/17/09 bored mom Somebody rescore the shitty music. Labyrinth is still less painful to watch. 3 stars
6/04/09 xlovebugx the imagination: music, characters, scene, idea, is astounding. definitely a fave of mine 5 stars
11/05/08 Z Beautiful. Amazing top look at. Story... not so much. Just watch is on mute with cool music 4 stars
8/22/08 KingNeutron Not at -all- what I expected- good for kids maybe but Valentine was best part of the movie. 2 stars
7/18/08 scbyfn4evr the only reason critics don't like this movie is because they have been trained against it 5 stars
3/08/08 I loved it I own it 5 stars
4/04/07 Gian Absolutely beautifully, visually. Pulled off a dream world better than anyone else. Love it 5 stars
12/19/06 del Such a great concept and designs, so little payoff. A collosal disappointment. 3 stars
11/19/06 Ionicera I love Sandman and Gaiman/McKean, but the story was a little too familiar and formulaic 4 stars
11/05/06 Ryan_A Gorgeous to look at, although the story needs a little work. 4 stars
6/23/06 Mygaera I sat there, through the whole movie, gaping in amazement, for 90 minutes. 5 stars
6/06/06 Sarah IT WAS SO BORING! 1 stars
3/17/06 welsh angel Beautiful and unsettling. Not most original plot but made up for in mental-ness! 5 stars
3/15/06 Naka Fucking amazing. 5 stars
3/02/06 the laughing man fantastic fantasy, even though it had a flawed begining. 4 stars
1/31/06 R. Prigot Too bad it was limited release... 5 stars
11/26/05 NepruSmelu It was full of cool visual stuff but the story put me to sleep. 4 stars
11/25/05 ketil there is also a wonderful cocteau feel to it.. 5 stars
10/25/05 drfardook the story does fall short but visually incredible and lots of little henson moments 4 stars
10/21/05 BrianWilly Wonky and fun 5 stars
10/04/05 Tony incredible experience - all of the elements come together to create a hauntingly delightful 5 stars
2/26/05 David Taplin Utterly Awesome 5 stars
2/02/05 Lori Go see it...many, many times... 5 stars
2/01/05 Brian Erzen Fantastic, original and fun.... And quite smart too! 5 stars
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  30-Sep-2005 (PG)
  DVD: 14-Feb-2006



Directed by
  Dave McKean

Written by
  Neil Gaiman

  Stephanie Leonidas
  Gina McKee
  Rob Brydon
  Jason Barry
  Dora Bryan
  Stephen Fry

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