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This is the story of a young boy named Richard Tyler, who spouts statistics about the possibility of accidents. So much so, he is scared to do anything that might endanger him, like riding his bike, or climbing into his treehouse. While riding his bike home, Richard finds shelter from a storm inside a nearby library. Richard slips and is knocked unconscious while exploring a rotunda in the library. Upon awakening, he is led on a journey through conflicts and events that resemble fictional stories, keeping him from finding the exit from the library. Written by
Anthony Pereyra <email@example.com>
Predictable 90s part-animated film that has not stood the test of time
The main argument that I have against this film is that it seems to try, and subsequently fails, to be Disneyesque. As a result, it does not come across as an original or innovative idea. However, this is definitely not the only thing wrong with this disappointing feel-good extravaganza.
First of all, there are some definite cast issues: Macaulay Culkin is quite unbearably irritating as the cowardly Richard Tyler, a role that, in my opinion, would have benefited a lot from a more comic portrayal that would have made the audience relate to him more easily. Another annoying feature is Whoopi Goldberg as Tyler's animated literary companion, Fantasy. She is the wise-cracking character that you find very often in animated feature films, like the Genie from "Aladdin" (portrayed engagingly by Robin Williams), except that Goldberg, for all her talent, does not really have the extreme pathos that Williams had, and that the role requires. Patrick Stewart, the man with one of the greatest voices to ever grace the big screen, is somewhat wasted as the obligatory coward-who-thinks-he's-so-brave, Adventure, and although Frank Welker's Horror (the hunchbook) is amiable, the character still comes across as boringly formulaic, like the film. The cast's only real saving grace is the live-action Christopher Lloyd as Mr Dewey the librarian, not to mention the latter's animated alter-ego, the Pagemaster. As he so often is, Lloyd is brilliantly over the top. Otherwise, the only other interesting vocal contribution is that of Leonard Nimoy as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, although his appearance is limited to a small cameo.
Furthermore, the animation, for a modern day viewer, is not impressive enough to distract the audience from the dull plot, and neither is the dialogue, which falls flat (especially with Culkin's unenthusiastic delivery) and the gags are mostly grindingly facetious and unfunny ("Would you like to crawl into a corner with a good book?"). There is also a song in the middle of the film, "Whatever You Imagine", written by Barry Mann, James Horner and Cynthia Weil, and performed by Wendy Moten. The song seems to be an attempt at capturing the Disney feel of incorporating Pop songs into the story-line. However, whether you like Disney's songs or not, you have to admire their talent for incorporating them into the plot, as can be seen in "The Lion King" (a film of which I, personally, am not tremendously fond) with Elton John and Tim Rices' Oscar-winning "Can You Feel the Love Tonight", not to mention the other songs that they wrote for that film, all of which fit seamlessly into the plot. In "The Pagemaster", no such cohesion between plot and music is achieved even minimally.
However, although this film is mostly disappointing, not all is lost. The story, for all its flaws, wastes no time in getting started, and there is a certain nostalgia surrounding the film for the endless stream of, mostly mediocre, but still harmless, cartoons of the 90s, when computer-generated animation was yet to be exploited. The film does make a respectable attempt at being educational on the literary world, but some of the references are too fleeting (more Sherlock Holmes would not have gone amiss) while others were given too much emphasis, especially the "Treasure Island" segment, although Long John Silver is quite endearingly modeled on Robert Newton's classic portrayal of the character from the 1950 motion picture. Pixote Hunt, Maurice Hunt and Joe Johnston handle the direction skillfully, and, had the script and the story been polished up, this film just might have been passable. Having said that, I can't deny that, when I first saw the film, as a young boy, around ten odd years ago, I was sufficiently entertained, so it is definitely a good, innocent film to plant your children in front of if it's on television, but definitely not worth buying.
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