I Being followed by a Moonacre.
The Secret of Moonacre (2008): 6 out of 10: is a family fantasy film directed by Gabor Csupo and based on the novel “The Little White Horse” by Elizabeth Goudge. The movie follows the story of 13-year-old Maria Merryweather, who, after the death of her father, is sent to live with her enigmatic and distant uncle, Sir Benjamin, in the mysterious Moonacre Manor.
Upon arrival, Maria discovers a magical world filled with fantastical creatures, enchanted forests, and an ancient curse that threatens the peaceful valley of Moonacre. She learns she is the last Moon Princess and holds the key to breaking the curse that has cast a dark shadow over the land for centuries.
As Maria delves deeper into the secrets of Moonacre, she runs off with her rival Robin who is son of the evil clan leader and together they embark on an exciting adventure to find the truth behind the long-standing feud between the Merryweather and De Noir families. Along the way, Maria encounters magical allies such as the mystical white horse and the loyal dog Wrolf, who assist her in her quest.
With courage, determination, and the help of her newfound friends, Maria must embrace her destiny and harness the power of the Moon Princess to restore peace and harmony to the magical world of Moonacre before it is lost forever.
The Good: As media regarding the moon crashing into earth go The Secret of Moonacre is fairly straightforward. (Considering the competition is Melancholia and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, this is not the highest of praise.). Despite all the nonsense involved, the movie somehow makes a giant moon or an enchanted castle seem grounded.
Wedding between two families goes bad when magical pearls reveal that darkness lies in the hearts of men. As a result, the father of the bride (Tim Curry) goes all House Stark (Or to be more exact the House of the Black offshoot in the Stark territory) while the Bridegroom goes all Beauty and the Beast’s Beast complete with large library and enchanted castle.
The bride in the meantime hides out in a Hobbit hole. (Why she is not the Moon Princess is honestly a piece of lore, I am still not picking up on) They all live in the same woods, but manage to not talk this out over the next four hundred years. The reason given is pride.
It is up to our latest heroine to bravely face down all the angry adults and, at risk to life and limb, get them in a room together so they can forgive each other. So we have a story of getting adults to act like adults and to put others’ need before their own. We need more stories like this for both kids and adults.
The Bad: I am sure that Juliet Stevenson is a fine actress. She, however, is burdened twice in Moonacre. One, she is the comic relief character, complete with Edwardian fart jokes. (It is cute in a way that they truly try to keep the fart jokes period appropriate but still). Her second issue is that she looks exactly like Hugh Laurie in drag.
I don’t mean a little like Hugh Laurie in drag. I mean, I had to go to IMDb after five minutes to check to see if that was Hugh Laurie in drag. I feel a touch mean bringing this up. Juliet is even quoted as saying about Hollywood “I’m hardly Hollywood material – they’re interested in youth and perfection and I lay no claims to either. It’s not a place that’s particularly interested in talent.”
All that said, it really is an uncanny resemblance.
The Ugly: The story states that someone killed of Dakota Blue Richards’ father on purpose. It is the inciting incident of the movie that causes her to move to her uncle’s estate in the magical valley. There is a scene during the funeral, however, where we see her nemesis and eventual love interest/ partner Robin de Noir leaning against a tree. But since the De Noir’s at the time had no interest in breaking the curse (a major plot point) they seem unlikely suspects.
So someone killed her father (Her uncle claims it was thugs he owed money to). More importantly, someone had to kill her father. Because if her father didn’t die, she could not be sent to her uncle’s house where she was needed to prevent the moon from crushing the earth. Hopefully, any kids watching will have much simpler questions than who killed the father. (Like why does a lion change into a dog instead of a cat, for example?)
When the solicitor told Dakota Blue Richards that all her father left her was a book, my first thought is that it would be the Necronomicon. Alas, it is not. But now I want to write that children’s book.
Apparently, The Little White Horse is also the source material for the Sailor Moon anime.
Our heroine’s love interest and his lads are definitely doing their version of the droogs from A Clockwork Orange, which honestly makes them a lot more frightening in some scenes than I think they were menat to be.
There comes a time in a man’s life where he goes from oh goody it’s Tim Curry to oh God it’s Tim Curry.
All children’s stories should end with a virgin sacrifice off a cliff.
In Conclusion: In the end The Secret of Moonacre is a kids’ film with colorful costumes and a very good lessons for the wee ones. Yes, it drags out so many common tropes it amazes one that no one pulls a sword out of a stone at any point. In addition, your Hero’s Journey bingo card will fill up faster than during a Star Wars marathon.
Still, as fantasy movies for kids go, The Secret of Moonacre is one of the better ones. Good messaging mixed with handsome (if limited) production and a plot the kids can follow along without too much trouble. And a plot the parents can sit through without too much pain.