Home » The Magician’s Elephant Review: The power of hope

The Magician’s Elephant Review: The power of hope

"The Magician's Elephant" stands out for its unique emphasis on problem-solving skills, which is a rare feature in films for any audience

by Teamexpresspo
The Magician’s Elephant: The power of hope

Rating: 4/5

By: Sarojini Chatterjee

Cast: Noah Jupe; Mandy Patinkin; Brian Tyree Henry; Sian Clifford; Benedict Wong; Miranda Richardson; Pixie Davies; Aasif Mandvi; Dawn French; Natasia Demetriou

Directed by: Wendy Rogers

Netflix’s family animation genre revolves around pseudo-fantastical worlds that have an undefined past, but always with a hint of magic. Even though this description is both specific and vague, it is what makes Netflix’s family animation content so comforting to the viewers. The Magician’s Elephant, Netflix‘s latest film, follows a storyline where a magician’s trick goes wrong resulting in an elephant falling from the ceiling. The plot thickens as a secret is hidden in a lie, a mysterious fortune teller knows the answers to “the most profound and difficult questions”, and a king challenges a boy to complete three impossible tasks purely for his own amusement.

Kate DiCamillo, a two-time winner of the Newbery Award, authored the book on which “The Magician’s Elephant” is based. DiCamillo’s writing style, which novelist Ann Patchett characterized “twist in ways you never see coming and do not shy away from despair or joy or strangeness”, typically includes fundamental elements found in children’s stories, such as young protagonists solving problems, connections with animals, the importance of hope, and a sense of community. However, she imbues those elements with layers of complexity and empathy. Her stories have happy endings but are not always resolved as simply as one might expect. The film frequently shows events from the perspective of characters, including the elephant, at critical moments.

The Magician’s Elephant: 
The power of hope 
The Magician’s Elephant: 
The power of hope 
The Magician’s Elephant: 
The power of hope

The main character of the story is Peter (Noah Jupe), an orphan boy who is being raised by a disabled ex-soldier named Vilna (Mandy Patinkin). Vilna treats Peter like a soldier, training him to march and teaching him that life is full of challenges and risks. They live in Baltese, a town that was once full of magic, but has become dull and gloomy since a recent war.

One day, a mysterious red tent appears in town, and inside is a fortune teller who tells Peter that his sister, who Vilna had claimed was dead, is actually alive. To find her, Peter must follow an elephant. The film’s narrator (Natasia Demetriou) is also the fortune teller, and adds a wry touch to the story.

Initially, the idea of elephants being present in Baltese seems implausible. But to Peter’s luck an incompetent magician (Benedict Wong) brings one crashing down a theater’s ceiling. Will Peter unite with his sister?

Director Wendy Rogers and screenwriter Martin Hynes successfully strike a balance between realism and fantasy in the film, using charming and storybook animation to create a timeless feel. Although mentions of war may be familiar to older viewers, the film’s overall presentation is quirky and unique. The voice acting, especially Brian Tyree Henry’s portrayal of Peter’s neighbour and Mandvi’s lively depiction of the king, is excellent. Additionally, Rogers’ prior experience as a visual effects supervisor in films like “Flushed Away” and the original “Puss in Boots” lends itself well to crafting visually dynamic scenes, such as an exciting chase sequence for the first impossible task.The human characters are fairly standard, but the title Elephant is crafted with enough realism to bring emotional and plausible physical weight to the narrative.

Through unique camera angles, we are given the perspective of theelephant and reminded that we are seeing through the eyes of another living creature. We are also shown the elephant’s memories of being in the wild with its herd. While the elephant’s name is unknown to us, it is known by its fellow elephants.

The writers of the storyexplore themes that are often ignored in children’s literature, such as the difficulty of accepting help and the importance of taking responsibility for one’s actions. As the humans in the story debate what to do with the elephant, we are reminded that their decision should not be based solely on their own desires.

It was the significant moments and lessons in the film that will capture the viewers’ heart. The magician recognized that the community had lost their belief in magic and his objective was to revive their faith. Through Peter’s successful completion of seemingly impossible tasks, the town of Baltese recollects the sensation of dreaming for a brighter future.

Children’s stories often highlight the importance of courage, teamwork, individuality, pursuing dreams, and the value of relationships with loved ones. However, “The Magician’s Elephant” stands out for its unique emphasis on problem-solving skills, which is a rare feature in films for any audience. Peter explores “what if” scenarios to reframe the problems, and considers others’ needs whilst finding solutions. This idea is also reflected in the choices made by other characters in the story, making the ending satisfying for both the characters and the audience.

They collectively shrug off the darkness that had engulfed them, permitting the radiance of the sun to guide them on a route where all things are achievable. The moral of this story – everyone in their life may experience some level of apprehension towards failure but that cannot discourage them.


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