Do You Believe in Magic?

Whenever I go to visit my sister in Kansas City, tons of pop culture is consumed. Books are read on the journey! Movies are gone to as family outings! Television is watched in an attempt to tame my nephew's wild energy for a few minutes! So, when I wrote about the book and movie combo I experienced over the past couple of days, it was really only half of what I got through. Those two properties were extremely pragmatic. How is the relationship between America and its military changing? How is morally tricky legislation passed?

The next set of properties I tackled were a lot more ethereal and imaginative. First, we took the aforementioned nephew to see Rise of the Guardians, which is about how Jack Frost takes his place among a pantheon of children's heroes (Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, The Sandman, and The Tooth Fairy) in order to protect the kids' hope and wonder from the sinister boogeyman. Perhaps I judge it too harshly because I'm still giddy from how terrific Wreck-It Ralph was. Perhaps I judge it too harshly because it's a movie for kids, and I shouldn't expect it to cater to my tastes. Or perhaps I don't judge it too harshly, because here is my six-year-old nephew's three-word review: "That was boring."

Yeah, it kind of was. From a story standpoint, anyway. I will absolutely not complain about the visuals, because this movie is beautifully animated, and the 3D was used very well. The rest of it could have used some work. The voice acting was fine, if nothing to write home about (Jude Law is the exception, imbuing the boogeyman with wonderfully elegant menace). The story was fairly bland and uninspired. It was surprisingly talky for a kid's movie, which is probably what earned my nephew's ire. It wasn't a terrible movie by any stretch; plenty of children's entertainment has me scratching at the walls, begging to be let out. This wasn't that. It was just a fair-to-middling movie that needed another twenty minutes in the oven, so to speak.

On the book front, I needed a palate-cleanser after the grim experience of Drift, and fortunately, Erin Morgenstern's 2011 novel The Night Circus was next on my list. I've always been a big fan of magical realism - it's not for nothing that I'm a Bryan Fuller superfan. So this dreamlike story about the wonders of a magic-infused circus and its nocturnal performers really hit my sweet spot.

The circus' amazing exhibitions are all part of an intricate game between two sorcerers, but rather than take on each other directly, they prefer to use the people around them as their unwitting pieces on an ever-changing chessboard. When two opposing forces find themselves increasingly drawn to one another, events take a turn for the dangerous. Normally, I'd find a book that back-benches its plot in service of atmospheric descriptions maddening. But in this book, delving into the enigma of the circus and its denizens is hypnotic. Like a fairground itself, you'll find yourself happy to wander off in an unexpected direction to see what mysteries you'll discover.

Rise of the Guardians: C+
The Night Circus: A


Jocelyn said...

I like these posts in which we get to make guest appearances!

Limecrete said...

I'd like to do an entry about something we violently disagree about, but our tastes are too damned similar.

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