'The Secret Kingdom' Review: Yielding to the (Mostly) Friendly Creatures
Matt Drummond wrote and directed an all-ages fantasy adventure.
Now in Theaters: The boundaries between wondrous fantasy and prosaic reality can be perilously close in our younger years.
Sometimes, it's difficult to tell them apart, simply because we don't want to distinguish between them. When young Peter falls through the floor of reality into a magical land, his first instinct is to resist. He can't quite believe what's happened, even though his younger sister Verity is all too eager to embrace and explore.
On the cusp of adolescence, Peter (Sam Everingham) is already on guard emotionally, due to his parents' decision to move to a strange new place. He stands in contrast to the enthusiasm evinced by Verity (Alyla Browne), who overflows with an overpowering curiosity.
Once they're well and truly Down Under, the only humans in sight among an army of creeping and crawling creatures, Peter's hugely cautious nature manifests itself further when the creatures proclaim him to be the long-awaited King of The Secret Kingdom, foretold to gather together mystical treasures in order to protect the Kingdom from a fearsome entity known as The Shroud. Peter must muster his courage and sally forth to help new friends survive.
Written and directed by Matt Drummond, who also served as director of photography and co-VFX Supervisor, and also produced with Megan Drummond, The Secret Kingdom is a true family-friendly adventure, which means it's absent any sort of sharp edges, as far as its language or content are concerned. It's not without its compelling interests, however.
Drummond is a visual-effects veteran, and has previously helmed two feature films, Dinosaur Island (2014) and My Pet Dinosaur (2017), so he knows how to tell a story that is simple and straightforward. The multitude of cascading visual effects fill the screen, and it's hard not to be awe-struck by the sheer quantity of moving parts, complementing the color schemes and enhancing the narrative, all built around a series of puzzles that must be solved and leading to a conclusion that is surprisingly poignant.
Clocking in at a bit over 90 minutes, the running time should be attractive for parents with young children, who are likely to yield to the film's abundance of visual pleasures and often-witty creatures, who rally to support Peter and Verity on their quest to save, well, everyone. [In theaters, VOD and On Demand as of June 9, 2023.]