Nellie and George (Carley O’Neill and Geoffrey Williams) are children forced on a countryside holiday, staying with family friends whilst their parents move house. Nellie is very much opposed to the idea, but the slightly younger George embraces it for all the fun it could be. Immediately upon arrival, Nellie and George go and play in the nearby woods, and George accidentally stumbles into a fairy world. With the help of the house’s secret hobgoblin Broom (Tony Robinson), Nellie must retrieve George before he eats anything in the fairy world, which will make him have to stay there forever. Of course, George eats something, but the Fairy Prince (Dougray Scott) makes an exception for George: if he and Nellie can complete three tasks for him, George can go free, with most of these plans involving the farmhand Brigid (Kate Winslet). However, the Prince’s evil brother The Shapeshifter (Jeremy Irons) has other plans, and wants to take over the Fairy Kingdom.
There are some films that are watched because we want to. Others we watch because we are told that we should. And then there are those watched out of a sense of completion. Seeing as I’m going through the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list, you’d think I’d be used to watching stuff I have a fair idea I probably won’t like (more on that coming soon), but my ill-fated mission through all of Kate Winslet’s movies sees me tackling films that literally no-one has said I should watch, and which are therefore only being seen so I can review them and cross them off a list that I gave to myself. This is the very definition of futility. Which brings us to Faeries.
It’s never a good sign when the greatest compliment I can give a film is that it was over within 77 minutes. And when I say “greatest compliment,” I in fact mean “only thing I didn’t hate about it.” For starters, the animation is terrible. Bear in mind this was made the same year as Toy Story 2 and you’ll see what I mean. There’s a misjudged mix of hand-drawn, CGI and live-action that gives me some idea of what hard drugs must be like. The computer generated stuff looks like it came from a particularly atrocious first draft of a video game, and the supposed-to-be scary attack of a giant stag beetle went beyond laughable to the point of me just feeling sorry for those who had created it. It’s like the introduction and opening credits to some terrible early nineties game show involving buried treasure.
The plot is a complete mess. Nothing makes much sense or has a great deal of connection from one scene to the next, magic rules are made up from scene to scene (there’s a cringe-inducing bout of deus ex machina with the hobgoblin suddenly having the ability to do magic just when it’s needed) and characters are introduced with traits that look like they might go somewhere – one of the fairies doesn’t ever talk, as we’re told when George introduces him as “This is Starcross, he never talks!” – but which eventually just leads to a brief scene where some characters cant find him, until he wakes up and they do. It’s the kind of film with a rhyming prophecy – there’s always a fucking prophecy – about two children arriving – with one webbed foot and flaming hair – who will put the evil character (you know he’s evil because he can change to any shape, but always chooses to look like a raven or if Gargamel was a Maître D’) in his rightful place, but which of course will not be the place of leadership said evil character has in mind. He has a pipe carved into the shape of his own head! What does that even mean?!?
There’s a bout of two characters looking identical and being confused which is resolved by one of them beating the other up in order to prove which is the real one, and some Little Mermaid-esque antics of a character – an adult no less – giving up everything they’ve ever known or held dear to become part of some new race they didn’t even know existed mere hours before.
I’m under no illusion that I am supposed to like this, but I fail to see how even children could. There are extended periods where the main characters are forgotten to instead focus on inter-fairy political relationships – that’s right, it pulls a Phantom Menace – and the overall logic of the whole thing just doesn’t work. There’s actually a good chance I did see this as a child, it was just so terrible that I managed to block the whole thing out. And the cast is an absolute waste. As well as Winslet (who by this point has two Oscar nominations and had starred in the biggest movie of all time) and Jeremy Irons there’s also British treasures like Jane Horrocks and John Sessions alongside Tony Robinson and Dougray Scott. They are all better than this. Everyone is better than this.
Choose Life 2/10