Originally intended for a mid-Summer blockbuster theatrical release, the family-friendly adventure "Artemis Fowl" finds its way to Disney+ this weekend.
One of the positives to come out of the new movie landscape post-coronavirus is that the movie-going audience has been spared of having to pay for and sit through certain movies in a theater. The latest exhibit of this is Disney's live-action "Artemis Fowl," an origin story based on the popular children book series by Eoin Colfer. With a total of eight books in the series, it's quite obvious that Disney was hoping to mine the material and turn it into a new film franchise, since there is a wealth of source material. But "Harry Potter" this isn't.
Directed by Shakespearean aficionado Kenneth Branagh, "Artemis Fowl" centers on a whip-smart young boy (newcomer Ferdia Shaw) years ahead of his age. In this film, he's on the search for his missing father (Colin Farrell), framed structurally by narration from Disney go-to Josh Gad, playing a strange criminal himself, Mulch Diggums. Along with the Fowl family butler (although DO NOT call him a butler), Domovoi (Nonso Anozie), young Artemis discovers a world full of fairies, dwarves, elves and magic as he struggles to understand his own role in all of it.
It's almost a sin that a movie about magic is so devoid of it. It's also way too convoluted a story for adults to find an entry point. If you child likes all things magic, they may get a kick out of some of the strange characters and sequences, but anyone whose experienced magic in cinema (haven't we all?) will see right through these parlor tricks.
I've admittedly not read the books, but it's been said that this version of "Artemis Fowl" has been given the good ole' Disney sanitization rub. In the original books for example, Artemis is positioned more as a criminal mastermind, not just another kid searching for his lost parents. Reviews of the book describe sharp-tongued dialogue, none of which is evident in the film.
Sometimes I feel like Disney dumbs-down their family-friendly fare, not trusting in the audience - or the children - to be able to handle even the slightest edginess. This version of "Artemis Fowl" is all rounded corners, and if it is the start of a new fantasy franchise, at least it feels right at home streaming on Disney+ just a few selections away from films like "Percy Jackson & The Olympians," "The Chronicles of Narnia," and other failed young-adult, franchise wanna-bes.
Genre: Adventure, Family, Fantasy.
Run Time: 1 hour 55 minutes.
Starring: Ferdia Shaw, Josh Gad, Colin Farrell, Nonso Anozie, Judy Dench.
Directed by Kenneth Branagh ("Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit," "Thor," "Cinderella," "Hamlet," "A Midwinter's Tale," "Much Ado About Nothing," "Henry V").
"Artemis Fowl" is available on Disney+ beginning Friday, June 12th, 2020.
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