17 November 2007 | Balthazar-5
A bucketful of charm and hidden depth...
Viewed as a 'European Premiere' at the Belfast Cinemagic Children's Film Festival, this light-hearted family adventure film must surely win over all but the most hard-bitten cynics. Based on a real incident from the late 60s and set in deepest Montana, it centres on the theft of a children's TV star marionette named 'Froggy Doo' whose antics thrilled the under-8s in the area.
In particular, he was the idol of young Rocky Plumm, younger son of failed boxer Mick Plumm, and younger brother of teenager Elliott. This is a film that could have been monumentally awful, but in the first half wins by the charm and audacity of its somewhat naive plot, and the way that its actors fit so seamlessly into the initially predictable characters.
But, like many fine films, as it progresses, it undermines the assumptions that we have made about it. The idyllic family life is not so idyllic, the teenage love story gets muzzed by hormonal outbursts, and the love of cinema of the filmmakers shines through in endearing references to great films of the era in which it is set (plus or minus a decade).
So, it's a comic family drama; it's a thriller; it's a reflection on the relationship between father and son, and it's a kookie, almost unclassifiable folk tale.
It's not perfect, and there are a few cringe-making scenes where the elements of pastiche fall flat on their face, but it enjoyably reminds me of another massively under-valued film - Spaced Invaders. True cinephiles will also see elements of masterpieces of the era as diverse as 'El Dorado' and 'Blow-up'. And the real reason it is so good (of its type) is that it wears the filmmakers' love of cinema on its sleeve. And as a first film by director Caroline Zelder, it is full of great promise...
Go and see this and give yourself a treat!