When the world outside your window gets a bit too real for comfort, and you know that neither Hugh Jackman as PT Barnum nor the slugfest of pyjama cricket on TV will lift your spirits, a dose of big-screen animation can never go astray. Being a Spanish production, this one veers a little bit off-centre, for it begins with an innocent guide being weighed down and thrown overboard to drown in the broiling briny. It then cuts to Tad, a construction worker on a US highrise, who is reading Herodotus (!). I don’t recall the ‘father of history’ getting a mention in any Pixar cartoon, but it’s perfectly appropriate, as the adventure that follows turns into a hectic chase to find the remains of King Midas, the legendary figure whose touch turned everything to gold. In keeping with our role-reversal times, the archaeologist leading the way is a young woman, Sara, brainy and brave, but a spunkette too – cinema can’t abandon stereotypes entirely. In fact, during the dramatic climax, she (a female Indiana Jones) is initially dressed in a tight red singlet and tiny, up-to-her-bum cut-down jeans that, without any opportunity for a wardrobe change, turn into long tights as the end nears. Be that as it may, the plot is smart, without being too convoluted for kids, and includes a series of gorgeous illustrations of Grenada’s Alhambra and Cappadocia in Turkey, albeit through a sanitised, Orientalist’s eye (flicks such as this will hopefully encourage inquisitive minds to be curious about such cultures and want to experience them at firsthand). Footfall and incidental sounds, fire and water, stone and fabric have never been so truly recreated as they are in today’s sophisticated animation and with digital cleverness has come an equally detailed observation of character – a love triangle here is a mid-story diversion – but, more than anything, this movie pushes the value of right and wrong, unhindered by spineless relativism, to its proper conclusion. Love conquers all.
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