Helena (Stephanie Leonidas) is a 15-year-old who desperately wants to run away from her family circus and join the real world. Her plans are thwarted when her mother becomes ill and the young girl finds herself in the Dark Lands a fantastical world populated by floating giants, ravenous sphinxes, and sensitive books that fly back to the library when insulted. All are born from her sketches, which are really McKeans drawings. Fans of the illustrators work will be delighted at seeing his 2D creations come to 3D life.
However wonderful the images are, we never really connect with Helena and the film becomes a mere anticipatory event where we sit in our chairs waiting for the next scene and phantasmagorical rendering. This is not a movie in which the filmmakers become too enamored with CG to care about plot (i.e. this isnt Jerry Bruckheimers MirrorMask), its clear that Gaiman and McKean, both with daughters of their own, deeply love Helena. Rather, the story itself of a young girl trapped in a dark/light world governed by evil and benevolent queens, while an evil version of herself reeks havoc feels like a childrens cinema cliché. Its a long, strange trip with beautiful scenery, but look down and youll see a yellow brick road.
MirrorMask opens at the Landmark Nuart Theatre Sept. 30.