At Palace Electric, Dendy and Hoyts in Canberra from 7 January 2021
81 minutes, rated PG – Family
The premise of this originally Danish film (with American voicing) is that our dreams are a kind of sound stage managed by a group of benevolent creatures ensuring we wake in time to avert disaster.
The now rather common story line of a family blending with unlike children having to cope with a sudden unannounced coming together in a home setting, unprepared by previous meetings or outing, feels rather too derivative for my liking.
True it is a common story worth exploring, but considerable nuance is required for a satisfying telling of this 21st century story. There is also, at the centre of the plot, the trope of the good child and the bad child (though bad due to her misery at her own feelings of abandonment and guilt).
What I see in this version of events, as a dispassionate and probably curmudgeonly adult observer, is quite a lot of bad parenting. Neither parent seems capable of taking concerted and fair action due to his or her own guilt at being a single parent. The communication about compromise – usually a good message – is simply annoying as it is so one-sided and top-down delivered.
However, to the story – Minna (the ‘good child’ who lives with her father, her mother having abandoned them to pursue a singing career) learns about the world of the dreambuilders and uses this knowledge to try and change the behaviour and ideas of others, notably her soon to be step-sister, ’bad child’ Jenny.
Inevitably this leads to dire consequence in the crossing over of the dream world and the real world.
Those who have seen Minions (2015), Alice in Wonderland (2010) and their ilk will find the design of the characters in the dreambuilding team very familiar. The hierarchy in dreambuilding land is reminiscent of any stereotypical government public service department or corporate world with altruistic underlings and a grumpy though relatively wise boss. The animated world evokes classic nightmares of running and falling, large spiders, unnamed fears, size disproportion and confused time sequences.
The film is firmly planted in the social media era in the character of the nasty step-sister, Jenny, with her Instagramming and constant attachment to her phone, along with the cyber-bullying she indulges in against Minna. This is perhaps the most relatable part of the film for modern youngsters and may be the thing that induces the most discussion between parents and their children post-movie.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t receive any reflective treatment or appropriate resolution from the film makers. At the end it is Minna who does all the giving and offering of olive branches. Many children will find this distasteful I believe, offending their sense of justice and fairness.
- Director: Kim Hagen Jensen and Tonni Zinck.
- Cast: Robyn Dempsey, Emma Jenkins, Luke Griffin
Thank you to Ned & Co Marketing and Publicity for the opportunity to preview this film.