What do you get when you juggle bananas?
What has four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs at night?
What is green, hangs on a wall, and whistles?
When you have it you want to share it, and when you share it you don't have it. What is it?
If you can answer those questions correctly, then you've probably seen MirrorMask.
MirrorMask is the story of Helena, an imaginative fifteen year-old girl (played by twenty year-old stephanie Leonidas) working for her family's circus, who wishes--quite ironically--that she could run away from the circus and join "real life." Helena says something horrible to her mother during an arguement, something she regrets saying after her mother suddenly falls deathly ill. Her mother's illness has brought the circus her father has always dreamed of running to a sudden halt and near bankruptcy, adding another burden of personal guilt to Helena's slim-shoulders. On the night of her mother's major surgery, Helena wakes to the curious sound of music, and goes in search of its source.
The first sign that this is truely a combination of Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz is when Helena slips into a pair of white-rabbit slippers to investigate the odd music. The dreamworld Helena floats in to (on an insulted book, no less), turns out to be formed from her own artistic drawings posted on her bedroom walls. A world where fish swim in mid-air, sphinxes prowl like cats, and books have to be caught by nets. A world where there is such a thing as A Very Useful Book, where owning a tower makes you a very important person, and where having a readable expression is a very rare thing since everyone is wearing masks!
Helena quickly finds herself on a mission to find a stolen charm that will help wake the Queen of Light before the Dark Lands over-run the universe. Along her journey, she acquires a not always reliable companion name Valentine, be puzzled and stalked by sphinxes, meet slow-speaking giants, be mistaken for a princess, and look through windows into her non-dream world where the princess she is mistaken for has taken over her real life.
From creative collaborators Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman (best known for their comicbook work), and The Henson Company, (best known for everything Muppet), MirrorMask is a combination of Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and Labyrinth as if performed by Cirque du Soleil. MirrorMask has a visual image that can be simply worded as inspiring! Rated PG, I don't think I would take really young kids to see this film due to some intense moments, but I believe it could really have an impact on the artistic imaginations of children between the ages of five and ten. The actors (especially Stephanie Leonidas and Gina McKee who plays Helena's mother as well as the Queen of Light and the Queen of Shadows) put in strong performances despite the fact that the movie's plot-line is fairly simple and not its strongest point.
I highly recommend you see this movie in the theater if you can, or wait to buy it or rent it when it comes out on DVD on February 6, 2006.
I give it a solid B.