The world of fantasy comes to life in MirrorMask, the visually stunning but emotionally empty new film from Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman. The film is especially disappointing given the caliber of talent behind the scenes. Gaiman has a god-like status in the world of comics. He was the first comic book writer to win the World Fantasy Award, which gave the entire medium a greater sense of legitimacy. He moved on to the world of fiction, and wrote the English adaptation of Princess Mononoke. McKean is an illustrator who worked with Gaiman on the Sandman comic book, providing haunting covers. MirrorMask is another collaboration from them, this time in a new medium. Gaiman co-wrote the story with McKean, who directed.

The sad truth of this film is that it shows McKean's deficiencies as a director. The goal was to create a story that straddled the real world and the world of magic/imagination, but the story falls flat. Nevertheless, MirrorMask is eye-candy, and is simply quite beautiful to watch. McKean's strange illustrations come to life with the help of computers. The world he creates looks wonderfully bizarre. People ride across the sky on books, and fish swim in the air. Odd creatures walk around, and everything looks a bit off from the real world. Nothing looks scary, and it was important to McKean and Gaiman that they create a 'smart' children's film. It's a valiant goal given how stupid many children's films are, but again the story is a bit simplistic.

The world of the MirrorMask is where Helena (Stephanie Leonidas, Yes, Fogbound) finds herself. Helena's family owns a circus, and Helena wants to leave to live a more 'normal' life. Her mother Joanne (Gina McKee, The Reckoning, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood) falls ills, throwing her life into chaos. Her father (Rob Brydon, Shaun of the Dead, 24 Hour Party People) is torn between staying with Joanne and the circus, which is losing money because it is idle. Helena finds herself in a strange new world, with the strange Valentine (Jason Barry, Conspiracy of Silence, Beyond Re-Animator) as her guide.

MirrorMask drags at times because of long conversations between Valentine and Helena. They discuss her life, the world around her, and even things like politics in the world of the MirrorMask. She eventually realizes that she is on a sort of a quest, both the rescue her mother and the return to her own world. But it is all so dull, which is especially sad because it detracts from McKean's work. It feels like McKean and Gaiman spent so much time trying to create this new world that is complex that they failed to take a step back and realize that they also need to create a story that is engaging.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 41 minutes, Rated PG for some mild thematic elements and scary images.

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