This was one of my other half’s favourites when he was a child; I was a student then, at the same time too old and too young to watch a children’s film (also I was living in England when it came out, so I must have missed it completely). But now we have it! We watched it last night to see if it had stood up to time.
(Spoilers. But not bad enough to put it behind a cut, most of you aren’t likely to watch it anyway and those who will are probably not the kind of people who object.)
There are some cheesy moments. It’s also strangely self-referential, as if the film-makers were poking fun at themselves with the blatantly amateurish film-shooting in the story. All the nineteen-seventies Dutch celebrities are in it, understandably because in the nineteen-seventies there were only so many Dutch celebrities and everybody was in every film. There’s atrociously bad acting, even (especially, in fact) by some of the celebrities. But it’s a joy to watch anyway. The two boys are delightful, the two girls are nicely bitchy, the grandfather is splendid. The parents are cringeworthy, not because of their bad acting though there is some of that, but because they just don’t listen, one of the main points of the film. Every time the protagonist tries to say something, he’s overruled and second-guessed and then blamed for not telling.
It’s a pity that the second plotline, actually with a real mage, doesn’t really materialise. I’d have liked it better if it had either been only hinted at, keeping it mysterious, or made fully explicit. As it is, we’re led to think that the mage is evil, colour-coded and with scary paraphernalia and all. He has kidnapped the son of the Dutch ambassador in India because of his (the boy’s) power over animals, keeps him close with a magical medallion, and tells him that “The Event” is coming but not what it’s about so the boy gets more and more scared. When The Event finally arrives it turns out to involve demons coming down from heaven (what?) who the mage dispels with, apparently, the power he gets from the animals his boy has brought. Take my advice: if you’re a good mage, show it, don’t put on the mysterious air just because you can.