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1 review, 3 user ratings

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Skellig: The Owl Man
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by brianorndorf

"Tim Roth's Wings"
2 stars

I decided to review the English family film, “Skellig: The Owl Man,” because the name Annabel Jankel caught my eye. Perhaps best known as co-creator of ‘80’s icon “Max Headroom,” Jankel is more infamous for the last motion picture she co-directed: 1993’s soul-flattening bomb, “Super Mario Bros.” That’s quite a legacy to leave behind, with “Skellig” representing the filmmaker’s baby steps back into the industry. It’s been a long time since Jankel made a movie, and “Skellig” suggests the return wasn’t worth the wait.

A socially awkward pre-teen, Michael (Bill Milner) is forced to deal with relocation when his father (John Simm) and pregnant mother (Kelly Macdonald) purchase a dilapidated house to fix up for their growing family. Investigating the back yard, Michael uncovers a monster-like creature named Skellig (Tim Roth), who’s taken up residence inside a crumbling cottage. Hoping to help Skellig with his need for beer and Chinese food, Michael finds an outlet for his frustrations, caring for a mysterious, cantankerous man who appears to be calcifying before his eyes. Difficulties soon intensify for Michael with the birth of his baby sister, who’s come into the world with severe medical problems. Witnessing Skellig’s otherworldly gifts of healing, the boy urges his reluctant companion to regain his strength and save this critical life.

As a film critic, I’ve grown accustomed to seeing scores of family films every year, all with a distinct inclination to maintain a sunny disposition, out of fear of losing the fragile sense of concentration from the core demographic. “Skellig,” based on the award-winning novel by David Almond, isn’t a cheery picture in the least. In fact, it’s downright glum, keeping the characters in a constant state of distress, often through horrifying medical revelations pertaining to Michael’s infant sister. I’m all for melancholy films of pure emotional release, but this feature misfires greatly, mistaking misery for resonance. The feature feels like a burden, not encouraging catharsis.

Jankel (credited here as “A.J. Jankel”) mopes around the tale, pulling reasonable performances from her capable cast (young Milner is quite gifted, and there’s always room for Macdonald’s tender Scottish allure), but failing to thread together a concrete reason as to why Skellig is an important character. He’s an enigma with wings, possibly born from the graces of Heaven, but uniquely tied to an earthbound community of bugs, with a taste for takeout. Roth plays the character as he plays most characters: grumbly, with a special unwashed, slithery appeal. There’s just no charisma emanating from Skellig, making Michael’s devotion bewildering. It’s difficult to buy what goes on in the story, which, for a fantasy film of winged desire, is death.

Jankel keeps serving up joylessness while sniffing around intriguing suggestions of evolution as a way of explaining Skellig’s true identity. Unfortunately, the filmmaker would rather stay within the comfort of domestic melodrama, which reduces the picture’s ultimate act of mystery, passing on the profound appearance of the titular character to cry over dying babies. Even though I haven’t had the honor of reading his book, I’m fairly sure Almond deserves an apology for this film.

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originally posted: 10/01/10 22:51:45
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User Comments

7/11/12 Anonymous Truly, one of the best movies I've ever seen! 5 stars
11/18/10 joey johnson Rented for $1.00 and was kinda good. 3 stars
10/06/10 Mal O'Brien I thought it was better than average,I enjoyedit! 4 stars
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  N/A (PG)
  DVD: 24-Aug-2010



Directed by
  A.J. Jankel

Written by
  Irena Brignull

  Tim Roth
  Bill Milner
  Kelly MacDonald
  John Simm

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