New this weekend The Magician’s Elephant based on the same name book hits Netflix for your viewing enjoyment.

Peter (Noah Jupe) lives a dull life in a boring city. Many years ago strange clouds covered the city and never dissipated. Orphaned at a young age, Peter lives with VIlna (Mandy Patinkin), a gray-haired grizzled, and slightly “off” veteran. Who tries to teach the child that life is hard nearly starving Peter and making him march daily. One day, Peter spends their only money for food on a fortune teller (Natasia Demetriou) to ask if her sister, who was presumed dead in an accident years ago, is still alive. “Follow the elephant,” she tells Peter. After explaining to Vilna that there will be no dinner he is ordered to march extra repeating: “Fish is small. Bread is stale. Life is not a fairy tale,” 

Peters’s biggest dilemma is no elephants in his city, YET. That night, an unsuccessful and washed-up magician (Benedict Wong) causes an elephant to appear from somewhere to his own shock and the audience’s. The royal court squabbles over the Elephant as if it is an invasion. Peter’s OVERLY-optimistic neighbor, who happens to be captain of the palace guard, sends a telegram to the King. The mercurial king needs constant entertainment and comes to the city to see this marvelous creature. Peter sneaks into the castle and implores the court and king to give him the elephant so he may find his sister.

The king declares that if Peter can overcome 3 “IMPOSSIBLE” challenges, he can have the elephant.

  • A Duel with the king’s strongest knight.
  • Fly, simple as that
  • Make the stoic Countess, Laugh.

In a typical feel-good family style, Peter’s circle of people starts helping him come up with ways to overcome these challenges. Each night he visits the elephant, they form a bond of their own. The king gives Peter the elephant, but he is sad that his new friend isn’t where she belongs. Thru the power of friendship and hope the Elephant is magically sent home.

Dreams, Connections, and SUBPLOTS

While all this story is going on about Peter and the Elephant, several other characters and scenes are patchworked into the story. The dream sequences are more like flashbacks, Vilna remembers the war and the night he saved Peter but couldn’t save his sister. On the other side of the coin is the Nun who helps deliver Peters’s sister, Adele. Adele even has a dream of an elephant, so she and her surrogate Mother go to the city to meet the magical new elephant. Peter and the Elephant have a shared dream sequence, playing upside down on the clouds.

The other subplot involves the titular character, the magician. He accidentally made the elephant appear it fell on an elderly lady of stature. It keeps cutting back to the jail where he is trying to apologize and show that his magic isn’t that good, to begin with. Finally, after several of these scenes, we get the reason why he came to town, to give them hope. Which seems to have worked with the town rallying around Peters and his tasks at hand. It finally circles back to the fact that Peter is going to need the Magician’s help to send Elephant home.

This leads to the aforementioned townspeople coming together, and together they help the magician send the elephant back to her family. The clouds dissipate, and the kingdom is happy again! The nun reunites with the Soldier who pulled an “Uncle Joe” and can walk again and reunite the lost siblings.

An Elephant-Sized Review

On the whole, the movie is cute, perfect for your 6-9 year old to distract them while mom and dad do housework this weekend. It has a great message that anything is possible. But as an adult, you will get the whole plot in 13 seconds flat. The voice cast is a great mix of actors some I was unfamiliar with and then veteran top-tier voices oddly filling out roles of the background townsfolk.

For a town that was been under a centuries-long gloomy sky, the mood still seems quite cheery. You would think it should be the other way around to really establish a baseline of blah. More muted tones, drab clothing, and colors.

The animators seem to have put so much detail into the elephant that the human characters seem a bit plasticky. I’m still scratching my head about why the overcast clouds looked like a bunch of ping-pong balls.

You’ll enjoy the movie don’t get me wrong, but I honestly don’t see myself going back for a second helping, and that’s not a load of peanuts.

Tell us what you think!

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