‘The Magician’s Elephant’ review: In pursuit of innocence

Express News Service

There’s something about elephants and the cinema. It is always warm to see the pachyderms sway in and out of the screens, and into the hearts of the audience. Close on the heels of the Indian documentary The Elephant Whisperers, which bagged an Oscar, Netflix is back with yet another film on the majestic beasts. The Magician’s Elephant, an animated feature, teaches love, bonding, belonging, and how magic is just around the corner if you believe in it.

Based on a book by two-time Newbery Award winner Kate DiCamillo, the story is about a young orphan Peter (Noah Jupe), who is raised by a bitter but caring soldier who believes that his ward must learn of the hardships of the real world.

One day, a chance meeting with a fortune-teller—who’s also the narrator of the story—changes Peter’s life. He finds himself in the midst of a mission—looking for his long-lost sister, Adele, who he was told had died. But in doing so, he first has to find an elephant, a rarity in the kingdom of Baltese.

The pursuit leads to Peter being challenged to complete three seemingly impossible tasks. While one may think that these chores are easy-peasy for an adult, it is a child’s world that debut director Wendy Rogers creates, and hence the tasks appear difficult, to say the least.

The film is mounted through Peter’s eyes, though at times the story is also shown through the eyes of the elephant—literally, as the frame takes the shape of its eye. Both these lend a certain sense of innocence and wonder to the narrative. Aware of its target audience, the film also doles out life lessons like the importance of believing in oneself, love and faith, not to mention the connection one forges with other living beings.

The animation keeps you enthralled, and the runtime of under 100 minutes is enough to butter the hearts of even the most cynical of watchers. The Magician’s Elephant is a rather safe watch, but perhaps a little more of fantasy would have turned it into the perfect warm and fuzzy film. 

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