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IN SHORT: A very sweet movie. Definitely for the girl kidlets.
Slow moving, as befitting the 1917 time period in which it is set, Fairy Tale: A True Story is a tale of the two young girls who photographed fairies in the English countryside.
Well, the photos were taken. There appeared to be small, winged creatures in them and the existence of said photos was enough to gain the certification of no less than Sherlock Holmes' creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Peter O'Toole) and raise the interest of Doyle's friend, Harry Houdini (Harvey Keitel). The amazing thing is that this story really happened.
Twelve year old Elsie Wright (Florence Hoath) lives in the attic of a house over which the gloom of death (of an older brother) still hangs. She is joined by a cousin, Frances Griffiths (Elizabeth Earl) whose father has gone missing in France during the latter days of what was then called the "Great War". Elsie is on the brink of womanhood, but ten year old Frances is very much the child. When Frances discovers a ring of mushrooms growing in the woods near the house, she knows that this "fairy circle" is indicative of the presence of the tiny creatures. So she goes looking for them.
Elsie takes her father's camera and shoots the two pictures which stun her non-believing father when he develops them. Her mother, who has been drawn towards mystic hooliganism since the death of her boy, gives the pictures to a "theosophist" (a movement which sought to put religious claims in a scientific context) who has them analyzed. The analysis reveals no photographic trickery. Next stop for the pix is Conan Doyle, who firmly believes in the mystic, and revelation to the public.
A hard edged newsman stalks the girls, seeking to reveal the forgery. The public take the girls to heart and run thorough the countryside seeking to capture the fairies. The fairies pack up their things and run away.
While the movie offers a silent explanation of how the photos could have been faked, it comes down hard on the side of the little people. Director Charles Sturridge and Visual Effects Supervisor Tim Webber, who teamed on the extraordinary Gulliver's Travels do so again here. The little flying folk are stupendous. Cranky only wishes that they were more involved in the story that plays out on screen. For while Houdini and Conan Doyle scour the countryside and charm the girls, the loss of a brother and a father (and how the girls deal with the losses) is the root story. It is the one story which bring the special effects fairies and the girls together as the film ends.
[And if you don't believe in fairies, you probably won't believe your eyes as the film ends with a cameo appearance by a major, with a capital "M," movie star. Cranky may be many things but he isn't about to give this most pleasant surprise away.]
Fairy Tale: A True Story is more a girls story. My niece would love it. My nephew would be bored silly -- except when the fairies rule the roost. Would that there were more of 'em.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Fairy Tale: A True Story, he would have paid . . .
Fairy Tale is a fine family flick, but Cranky's gut feeling is that it will find a most excellent home on video.
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