The Secret of Moonacre
Director: Gabor Csupo
Starring: Dakota Blue Richards, Ioan Gruffudd, Natascha McElhone
Fans of movie adaptations of popular children's books beware - the only secret about Moonacre is how dull it is. Still, it takes a certain something to make a movie so intensely unnecessary that it fails to elicit any sort of response whatsoever.
Based on the Carnegie Medal-winning novel The Little White Horse, by the late British novelist, Elizabeth Goudge, The Secret of Moonacre "is an enchanting tale of magic and adventure" - according to the back of the equally dull-looking DVD cover, in any case. Certainly, there is magic. And yes, it could be said that the main character, Maria Merryweather (Dakota Blue Richards) experiences an adventure of sorts. But enchanting? There are lots of other things this movie could be called before that.
Richards, who is best known for her semi-decent performance as Lyra Belacqua in 2007's disappointing The Golden Compass, plays Maria Merryweather, who is sent to live with her cantankerous uncle, Sir Benjamin (Ioan Gruffudd), in the opening scene, her father's death and accrued debts having forced her out of her luxurious childhood home.
Accompanied by her gaseous intensely annoying governess, Miss Heliotrope (Juliet Stevenson), the duo make their way to the dilapidated Moonacre Manor, nestled in the heart of Moonacre Valley.
Within days of settling into her new surroundings, and in part thanks to the magical book in her possession, the only item bequeathed to her by her father, the young Merryweather quickly discovers she is the key to breaking a curse that has long haunted the two warring families that live in Moonacre - hers, and the more sinister De Noir clan. Once united by a beautiful princess called Loveday (Natascha McElhone), the only daughter of the leader of the De Noirs (Tim Curry), and the fiancée of Benjamin Merryweather, greed forced the families apart after both men fought for ownership of a set of magical moon pearls, offered by Loveday as a wedding present.
The princess subsequently curses the valley - and both families - after witnessing their greed over the other-worldly pearls.
Don't be fooled by the fantastical storyline. The plot is indescribably tedious, the acting equally so. Quite what possessed the normally watchable Curry - who starred in the cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show - to sign on for Moonacre is a mystery. We can only assume the actor, alongside Gruffudd and McElhone, was paid handsomely (whatever the budget was, it certainly wasn't spent on the CGI effects) for committing this particularly inadvisable career move.
Perhaps the most bewildering part of this mess, however, is that the director, Gabor Csupo, has filmed another children's book adaptation poles apart from Moonacre - the heartbreaking, enchanting, and deservedly acclaimed, Bridge to Terabithia. Anyone looking for a decent children's film on DVD should give this a miss and pick that up instead.