The Magician’s Elephant (2023) Netflix Movie Review – A heartwarming movie the whole family can enjoy

A heartwarming movie the whole family can enjoy

The Magician’s Elephant is a beautifully-animated movie based on the popular 2009 children’s novel by Kate DiCamillo. It is one the whole family can enjoy and become invested in due to the enchanting story, warm-hearted tone, and messages of hope that can encourage us all to ‘never give up,’ even when faced with the impossible.

The movie is set in the fictional town Baltese which used to be a colourful and magical place where the children playfully zapped one another with their magic powers and the adults used their abilities to create miraculous things.

Everything changed when the land became impacted by a great war and the residents of Baltese lost their loved ones in battle. Joy disappeared from their hearts, as did their ability to use magic, due to the grief that overwhelmed them. Their ‘anything is possible’ attitude was replaced with much sorrow and hopelessness, and symbolic of this were the clouds that blocked out the bright light of the sun.

Don’t worry – this isn’t a movie that is laden with doom and gloom. Yes, it touches upon serious themes related to grief and war, but there is still a sense of hope in this warm and relatable tale.

That hope comes in the form of Peter, a kind and caring young boy who lost his parents in the war. He was found by a soldier named Vilna who decided to raise him as his own son. In the present day, Vilna is as world-weary and cynical as many of the townsfolk, but Peter, who hopes to be reunited with the sister that he became separated from years before, has somehow managed to remain optimistic and cheerful.

When shopping at the market one day, Peter spots a fortune teller’s tent that has suddenly appeared in the middle of his town. Instead of using the money given to him by Vilna to buy food for their dinner, he uses it to ask the fortune teller a question about his long-lost sister. To his relief, he is told that his sister is alive and to see her, he needs to “follow the elephant.” This would seem to be an impossibility as elephants don’t exist in Peter’s part of the world. But when a magician accidentally conjures up one of these animals during a failed magic act, Peter sees an opportunity to be reunited with his sister again.

The magician is taken into custody by the King’s guards when the elephant he has conjured lands on top of an old lady who doesn’t appreciate being a cushion for a pachyderm. The elephant is imprisoned too but when Peter pleads with the King to release the animal, he is told that his wish will be granted if he completes three impossible tasks.

Peter’s first impossible task is to beat a trained soldier in combat. His second task is to fly. And his third task is to make the Countess laugh, which seems to be an impossibility because she hasn’t been able to raise a smile since the death of her brother.

Tom Cruise (as Ethan Hunt) would have little difficulty accomplishing these tasks but they are quite a challenge for Peter who is small in stature and unsure of his own abilities. But as he is desperate to see his sister again, he takes on these tasks anyway, much to the amazement of the King and the townsfolk who are given a renewed sense of hope by the boy’s dedication to his seemingly impossible cause.

As the movie’s central message is ‘nothing is impossible,’ the outcome won’t be too hard for you to predict. But while the story’s ending is never in doubt, this isn’t a movie that should pass you by. It’s pleasing to the eye due to the animated style that looks like something from a pastel-coloured storybook, and the convincing voicework from the talented cast, which includes Noah Jupe as Peter, Mandy Patinkin as Vilna, and Benedict Wong as the defeated magician, gives us a reason to become invested in their characters.

The story is engaging too and while the message it preaches might seem a little fanciful, especially to those of us who have been beaten down by life’s disappointments, it might still be enough to give us hope in our own dreams, however broken they may have become.

Refreshingly, The Magician’s Elephant takes a different approach to a lot of other animated movies that are aimed at children. There are no talking animals, no characters bursting into song, and no scenes of silly slapstick. There are no in-jokes for adults that fly over the heads of kids either. Instead, this is a movie that deals with weighty themes (as well as one weighty elephant) that relies on good old-fashioned storytelling to entertain and enthral its target audience.

The can-do attitude of Peter should be inspiring to a lot of children, as well as their world-weary parents who need a reminder that good things can happen in life if we actively pursue our dreams. As such, this is a movie that can be enjoyed by all but the most cynical, so can be whole-heartedly recommended. It’s one of the better-animated movies that Netflix currently has to offer so is definitely worth considering for your next family movie night.


Read More: The Magician’s Elephant Ending Explained

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  • Verdict - 7/10

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