This week’s movies both feature a queen in trouble. Only one of them is Beyoncé.
For the Kids
…and one pill makes you small. Epic owes a debt to Alice in Wonderland. The young protagonist, Mary Katherine, voiced by Amanda Seyfried (Mean Girls) may not tumble down a rabbit hole but she does find herself shrunken to the size of small insect. The fantastical world she discovers after her shrinking is beautifully animated and populated with colorful characters that will keep kids interested. Her father, voiced by Jason Sudeikis (Saturday Night Live) is an absent-minded professor type who is obsessed with finding evidence of the tiny people who live in the woods. He has neglected his fatherly duties over the years in single-minded pursuit of the bug-sized humanoids and so there’s friction when M.K. comes to live with him. But all of that is the more realistic human drama. The real star of this show is the world of an average forest seen from a bug’s-eye view. Josh Hutcherson (Hunger Games) plays the brash ne’er-do-well Nod who is thrust into the role of protector to this strange young woman who knows nothing of the forest. The voice talent is a cast of thousands: Beyoncé, Pitbull, Colin Ferrell, and Steven Tyler all show up in supporting roles. Christophe Waltz (Inglorious Basterds) plays the villain to menacing perfection, as usual. There are action scenes in the form of lots of chases through the trees that kids and Dads alike will enjoy.
For the Parents
I wonder what the real Queen Elizabeth II thinks of this movie? It doesn’t even pretend to be based in fact. It is pure historical fiction, and not particularly likely fiction at that. Even if the idea of two princesses enjoying a night out on the town whilst somehow remaining incognito might be less realistic than the animated movie about shrinking people, it is highly enjoyable. A Royal Night Out is one of those movies that you don’t want to end. The production values and performances are all spot on. Just to visit that world of 1940s fashion and the excitement of VE Day in London is enough to interest me. Sarah Gadon (11.22.63) plays the reserved young Princess Elizabeth Windsor who has always known that she will one day be queen. She is resigned to her cushy fate as the future monarch of Great Britain but is convinced by her sister, Princess Margaret, to petition their parents, the Queen Mother and King George VI, for one night out in London. The King, played by Rupert Everett (My Best Friend’s Wedding) in some truly awful old-age makeup, allows them to go, conceding that this will likely be the princesses only chance to kick up their heels. While Gadon charms as the young Elizabeth it’s Bel Powley (Diary of a Teenage Girl) who steals the show with her daffy, light-hearted portrayal of Princess Margaret. There are hints of Roman Holiday to be found in that our young royals lose their security detail and go on the lam, as it were, as normal girls in a city experiencing the end to a long national nightmare.