A classic children’s book with a sweet retelling – The Hollywood Reporter

The 1948 children’s fantasy novel Newbery Honor by Ruth Stiles Gannett, My Father’s Dragon, gets the Cartoon Saloon treatment in the adaptation of Nora Twomey’s adorable craft. Brought to life by a star-studded voice cast led by Jacob Tremblay and Gaten Matarazzo as a 10-year-old boy named Elmer and Boris, the dragon he discovers the rewards of friendship and bravery, The film is visually inspired by the original illustrations by the author’s stepmother, Ruth Chrisman Gannett. It lacks the cultural character of the best of the Irish animation store, like Wolfwalkers and Song of the Seabut the classic 2D beauty and vivid storytelling will satisfy younger audiences.

Having its world premiere at the London Film Festival ahead of Netflix on November 11, it is the second film based on Gannett’s beloved book, following the 1997 Japanese version of Masami Hata. It represents a move into more standard children’s adventure territory for director Twomey after 2017 Breadwinner, about an 11-year-old Afghan girl who is coming of age under Taliban rule. But there is thematic overlap when it comes to focusing on the ten main characters who seek to escape life’s difficulties but also dangers in imaginary stories, while seeking to shoulder responsibility for their difficulties. their family.

My Father’s Dragon

Key point

A light-hearted film but transports pleasures.

Location: BFI London Film Festival (Family)
Release date: Friday, November 11
Cast: Jacob Tremblay, Gaten Matarazzo, Golshifteh Farahani, Dianne Wiest, Rita Moreno, Chris O’Dowd, Judy Greer, Alan Cumming, Yara Shahidi, Jackie Earle Haley, Mary Kay Place, Leighton Meester, Spence Moore II, Whoopi Goldberg, Ian McShane
Manager: Nora Twomey
Writer: Meg LeFauve; story by LeFauve and John Morgan, inspired by Ruth Stiles Gannett’s children’s book

Rated PG, 1 hour 42 minutes

Screenplay by Meg LeFauve (Contradictory) was “inspired” by Gannett Elmer and the Dragon trilogy rather than a completely faithful translation, although it does stick to the original model in that the story is told by an anonymous narrator (Mary Kay Place) who recalls events from his life. her father decades ago.

It begins in a happy time, when Elmer helps his mother Dela (Golshifteh Farahani) in her busy small-town grocery store; His skills in finding things make him invaluable in completing customer orders quickly. But those times of prosperity were short-lived, and when the recession hit, they lost their stores to foreclosure.

His mother tries to reassure Elmer that everything will be fine as they make a fresh start in the city, and he collects the few items left on the shelf into his backpack – a pair of scissors, a lollipop. strawberries, a piece of chewing gum. gum, a box of elastic bands – to stock up when they open a new store. Those random pieces of gear will come in handy as he soon finds himself on a perilous adventure in a strange, untamed place where no child has ever been.

Twomey and her animators deliver eloquent melancholy notes as the mother and daughter drive through pouring rain on deserted roads to a somber destination called Nevergreen City. That displacement evokes narratives of the Great Depression, enhanced by the spiritual strings of composer siblings Jeff and Mychael Danna. They rent a stodgy attic with bad plumbing from their shabby landlady, McClaren (Rita Moreno), and Dela time and time again resent the positions that have been filled. While she reminds Elmer that her job is to worry, not his, the boy sees false optimism behind her promise of a new store.

After an argument when an alley cat followed him home, Elmer fled – in one of the film’s most dramatic sequences – through the densely populated city with thick, dark clouds of industrial smoke. and the menacing walls seemed to close in on him until he reached the pier. The cat then surprises him by revealing that she can talk (voiced by Whoopi Goldberg).

In return for Elmer’s kindness, the cat told him about a “fantastic, spectacular, real-life, real-flying” fire-breathing dragon over a place called Deserted Island and hooked him up by means of transport. on the back of a giggling whale named Soda (Older Judy). Elmer figured he could turn the dragon into a money attraction to ease the burden on his mother and finance the new store.

Much of the story takes place on Wild Island, which is sinking into the ocean, a narrative embellishment that gives Elmer the instability of his adventures to match his reality in Nevergreen. The island is kept above sea level only by the efforts of the dragon, Boris, who is held captive by the silverback gorilla Saiwa (Ian McShane), the patriarch of the island’s fauna.

When Elmer used scissors to sever the vines that were tying Boris to the crater in the center of the island, the two quickly became friends. But Boris turned out not to be quite the “fantastic, breathtaking, real-life, flying, fire-breathing fire-breathing dragon” the cat described. He’s a kid, like Elmer, and his injured wings make upgrading a clumsy goofball’s “post-dragon” power to full-fledged “post-dragon” power even more difficult. more of a challenge than his self-doubt. His fear of fire and large bodies of water didn’t help either.

While the previous features of Cartoon Saloon have been distinguished by the folk, mythological, and ethnographic background of their stories, My Father’s Dragon will feel more generic to adult viewers. But children should respond enthusiastically to the adventures of Elmer and Boris as they traverse the island and face their fears, searching for answers to help the dragon find his fire and stop the throne. house of sunken animals.

The gentle relationship established in the dialogue between Tremblay and Matarazzo is just as important to the appeal as the cute character designs. Elmer has a slight hint of the sapphire-eyed anime boy about him, while Boris looks like a stuffed green and yellow striped sock, with red spikes running down the back. his long neck. Their touching friendship is bolstered by the symbiosis of the intelligent, resourceful, assertive Elmer who admits that he can’t always make sense of everything, while insecure Boris learns to trust into his nature. It’s less of a classic hero’s journey than an experience of mutual growth, an exchange softened by the Danna Brothers’ beautiful whistle theme.

Solid voice work and captivating character concepts extend to the many animals – friends and foes – they encounter, with visual influences stretching from Miyazaki to Maurice Sendak. Among the wild creatures nursing mother rhinoceros Iris (Dianne Wiest), supersized crocodile Cornelius (Alan Cumming), kind-hearted tiger siblings Sasha and George (Leighton Meester and Spence Moore II), alarms rise tarsier Tamir (Jackie Earle Haley) and the baboon Kwan (Chris O’Dowd), who oppose Saiwa’s leadership.

The book’s episodic nature to some extent translates to a reimagined screenplay, which doesn’t always flow as smoothly as it might in its transitions or in its plot. But a deep love for original material emerges, and the artists’ hand-drawn aesthetic is mesmerizing. A dream sequence connecting Elmer back home and his mother is particularly endearing, its monochromatic tones contrasting with the vivid colors of the Wild Island.


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