Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

{The Dragon Pearl screens at SIFF June 9, 1:00pm at the Kirkland Performance Center.}

There are scores of truly great children’s movies, and then there are other heaps of movies that are great movies for children, and this is of the latter class. You probably loved movies just like this one when you were between the ages of 8 and, say, 11. Or so. It has the loose, pleasantly formulaic feel of, say, Free Willy, or High School Musical, or The Parent Trap.

The plot goes like so: Josh comes from Australia to visit his dad (Sam Neill, playing Alan Grant, more or less) for the first time in some long amount of time, since The Divorce. Dad is an archaeologist working in China, and he’s on to Something Big. The lead archaeologist is Chinese and her daughter Ling is roughly the same age as Josh. Despite his pristine hoodies, adorable haircut, and mad puzzle-solving skillz, Ling thinks he’s boorish and impolite. But they become allies when they stumble on a Mysterious Mountain Temple guarded dynastically by a (genuinely) hilarious dude named Wu Dong. Turns out he’s protecting, with Indiana Jones-esque rube goldberg mechanisms, a glorious dragon who’s been waiting all this time for someone to return his magic pearl. The dragon, really, is extra cool. But the only grown up who believes them is the sinister Philip, who really, by rights, ought to have been granted a moustache to twirl.

Now, since you are reading this, I’ll wager a fair bet that you’re too grown up to enjoy its pleasures as fully as your youngsters will. You’ll likely have to supress an air of bemusement at the pre-teen acting skills. You might be slightly buffeted by the haphazard pacing. Josh, really, that hoodie? But it does pick up steam once the dragon makes an appearance, and the final chase at the end is well played. Plus, the cross-cultural sub-story is a really nice addition to the formula. If you’re a kid-haver you can feel really good about taking your progeny to see it.