30 September 2017 | TheLittleSongbird
Lacks magic and a secret not worth caring about enough
Saw the whole film on Youtube, both in Chinese and the English dub, after seeing its trailer watching Disney's 'Mulan' on DVD yesterday. 'The Secret of the Magic Gourd' is not a terrible film, there are hundreds of far worse films out there and it's watchable, but it isn't magical or exciting enough to warrant repeat viewings.
As to which version is better between the Chinese and the English, the Chinese version, while still less than great, has a more natural feel and isn't hurt by as much awkward and odd translations, stilted synchronisation and voices that sound mismatched. Of the voices, Corbin Bleu is a good fit for the titular character Gourd, bringing to the role mischievous sass. Elsewhere it's too mismatched, with characters voiced by people who sound like they should be voicing other characters than the ones they are voicing. For example, Drake Johnston tries but sounds too mature and near-adolescent for a character that looks younger and one expects to sound cuter.
The story has moments of wonder and excitement, but these are moments in a film with a fairly short running time albeit with a story that's far too slight (being more suited for a 20 minute TV episode) and comes over as too derivative ('Aladdin' was an obvious influence here), predictable and repetitive. The dialogue in the dubbing can sound awkward.
Didn't see the point of the frog character, a character that brings little contribution to the story and has next to nothing to do. The acting generally in the Chinese version is less than stellar, Gigi Leung in particular is very bland. While 'The Secret of the Magic Gourd' mostly looks good, it at times looks a little over-saturated colour-wise and some of the transitions from one scene to another are choppy. The message is a good one and is very well-intended, but the film does rely heavily on it and hammers it home a little too much.
However, Gourd is a fun character and Bleu brings him to life well. Peisi Chen is an earnest human lead and the two characters work very charmingly together in a film heavily revolved around them. There are moments of genuine charm and fun, and there are a few exciting, if lacking in magic, set pieces that will leaves younger audiences entranced.
It, as aforementioned, is a very well-intentioned film, while the music score has the right amount of sparkle and whimsy. The best thing about 'The Secret of the Magic Gourd' is the special effects, if there is an asset of the film that actually has a sense of wonder it's the effects which are aesthetically colourful and imaginative in scale and how they're used. Visually, while with short-comings, it looks vibrant and it's dazzlingly photographed with beautiful scenery (some of it reminiscent of fantasy).
On the whole, watchable but uneven in both language versions. 5/10 Bethany Cox