"The Phoenix and the Carpet"
by Kevin Carr
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|| MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: * (out of 5 stars)
Miriam Margolyes as COOK
Lesley Dunlop as ELIZA
David Suchet as THE PHOENIX
Jean Alexander as LILY
Shaun Dingwall as BURGLAR
Christopher Biggins as MR. TONKS
Studio: Miramax Family
Directed by: Michael Kerrigan
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I had never heard of “The Phoenix and the Carpet,” either as a book or as a television movie. Made for the BBC back in 1997, this is a family tale of four British children who continually get into mischief. During one of their escapades, they set a carpet on fire, which their family must replace. When they open up the new carpet, they find an egg in it.
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Quite by accident, the egg gets tossed into the fire one day, and a brilliant phoenix emerges. The children soon learn that he was wrapped in a magic carpet that will grant the kids three wishes per day when they sit on it. However, as wishes tend to do, things get messed up, and the kids get into more mischief in a larger worlds.
There’s something compelling about a story of British children misbehaving and discovering magic. It’s a broad archetype for children’s fiction. One of the more famous stories with this set-up is C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, with the first major motion picture of the series coming out this Christmas. Until then, the misbehaving children of “The Phoenix and the Carpet” will have to do.
I found myself in a love/hate relationship with this movie. I thoroughly enjoyed the fantasy element. Magic carpets and rare creatures like the phoenix make for great storytelling. The first half of the film was great, putting the kids in difficult situations as they learned how to master the art of wishing.
However, the film dragged past its half-way point. As the phoenix grew older throughout the film, the plot became tired as well. It was as if the filmmakers had about forty minutes of good material but had to pad out the film in order to fit it into a feature-length television movie.
The young actors did a fine job, although they did come across as stiff and as the stereotypical proper British kids. The phoenix was a puppet with an occasional debut as a CGI effect when he had to fly or turn to flame. Overall, the beginning was much better than the ending, mainly because the plot became aimless and restrictive.
Earlier in the film, they introduce another fairy creature called a Psammead, or a sand fairy. I would have loved to see more of him - and other fantasy creatures the children could meet along the way - but he had only two scenes and not much involvement.
Young children might get a kick out of this. My son loved the idea of the kids flying around the world on a magic carpet. Of course, that fascination was during the first part of the film. When the kids gets trapped in their house on New Years Eve and accidentally conjure up several dozen Persian cats, things get really boring.
Specifications: Dolby Digital Stereo Sound. Fullscreen (1.33:1). English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.