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A Child's Garden of Verses (1992)





Cast overview:
Jonathan Pryce ... Narrator / Father (voice)
Heidi Stallings Heidi Stallings ... Mother (voice)
Gregory Grant Gregory Grant ... Robert (voice)
Paul Austin Paul Austin ... Doctor (voice)
Elizabeth Seidman Elizabeth Seidman ... (voice) (as Liz Seidman)
Sue Perrotto Sue Perrotto ... (voice)


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based on book | See All (1) »


Animation | Family







Release Date:

3 April 1992 (USA) See more »

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Oh god, it's distressingly awful
19 August 2015 | by luke-795-829154See all my reviews

I presume you're in this far, obscure, little-visited corner of IMDb because of an interest in Stevenson's exquisite and timeless book, which renders so poignantly the childhood experience of dreamy illness, imagined spaces, distance and isolation. (Bachelard named that realm "intimate immensity"; an alternative title for "A Child's Garden of Verses" might well be, to borrow from the French philosopher, "The Poetics of Space, for Very Young Children".) In a more sophisticated, dense poetry for adults, Rilke wrote

The school's long stream of time and tediousness / Winds slowly on, through torpor, through dismay. / O loneliness, O time that creeps away ...

And, later in the same poem ("Childhood"):

And hours on end by the grey pond-side kneeling / with little sailing-boat and elbows bare; / forgetting it, because one like it's stealing / below the ripples, but with sails more fair ...

Rilke captures (filtered through the adult "memory" and intellect) what Stevenson locates, in "Child's Garden", in the eternal present of childhood. The lack of the Rilkean filter (irony, yearning, nostalgia) in Stevenson means that the worst of the poems in "Child's Garden" are twee, inert, insubstantial.

But the best, a handful, are miniature masterpieces.

Which brings us to this '80s HBO travesty. It's basically as if a little-house-on-the-prairie aesthetic has kidnapped the Stevenson texts, then raped, brutalized and abandoned them. You need a syrup-alert. Jonathan Pryce supplies the token mellifluous British accent, but the rest are weirdly out-of-place American accents. The boy's mother even says she'll bring him a cup of tea and a "scone" (rhymes with "bone" rather than "con"). I get that this was made on a shoestring (clearly! -- the animation is simply awful) but it's hard to imagine who the audience is even meant to be here. The music is abominable -- the poems, as songs, lose all their limpid grace, and get screeched, as if they're songs from a musical that just wasn't quite good enough to make it onto Broadway.

If you have even a modicum of affection for the Stevenson originals, this is torture.

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