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Mary is an ordinary young girl stuck in the country with her Great-Aunt Charlotte and seemingly no adventures or friends in sight. She follows a mysterious cat into the nearby forest, where she discovers an old broomstick and the strange Fly-by-Night flower, a rare plant that blossoms only once every seven years and only in that forest. Together the flower and the broomstick whisk Mary above the clouds and far away to Endor College - a school of magic run by headmistress Madam Mumblechook and the brilliant Doctor Dee. But there are terrible things happening at the school, and, when Mary tells a lie, she must risk her life to try to set things right. Based on Mary Stewart's 1971 classic children's book "The Little Broomstick", "Mary and The Witch's Flower" is an action-packed film full of jaw-dropping imaginative worlds, ingenious characters, and the stirring, heartfelt story of a young girl trying to find a place in the world. Featuring the voices of Ruby Barnhill and Academy ...
This debut film by the newly formed Studio Ponoc delivers most of the magic and excitement of films from Studio Ghibli, but the film has several shortcomings that are impossible to look away from.
The central conflict of the film is not introduced until a good portion through the film. The films opening has lots of excitement and chaos, but once that brief five minutes is up, we are quickly shifted to a more mundane and uneventful first act. We're introduced to many characters in Mary's life who get little to no characterization, and are barely relevant. Mary is the only character who has a personality, so it's hard to connect with any of the other characters in the real world.
The antagonists of the film come across as run of the mill bad guys, with no special motivations to set them apart in any way. They essentially operate as one unit, despite being two different characters. Their "evil plan" (for lack of a better term), doesn't hold much weight to it, and doesn't seem to really end up being a horrible threat.
The story's first act concerns Mary and her everso boring life. And I mean boring! Nothing happens in the first act. It's hardly engaging, and the only real event is her finding the Witch's Flower. A good part of the second act is spent with Mary touring a magical college, which doesn't build up to anything. The final act has moments of intensity here and there, but the threat doesn't seem to be as imminent. This is likely due to the shallow characters not holding enough promise, or that the story was dragged out for so long, it became unenjoyable. Mary is also pitted against a task that has no real effect on her. The story isn't about her, and it isn't personal or emotionally effective. While her friend, Peter, is involved in the conflict, he is so unlikeable and bullies Mary in the first part of the film, so there is no reason to care about him!
However, the film has beautiful scenery and animation. It's a spectacle to look out and has some of the most wonderful sound design and music. Being a debut film, the shortcomings are alright, but I hope the studio improves as time goes on.
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