This middling children's fantasy went the straight-to-video route in 1998.
The medieval land of Merlin the Magician (Ian Abercrombie) is attacked by invaders. The wizard sends a mystic summons through time and space. In the present, an adolescent amateur magician dubbed Johnny Mysto (Toran Caudell) bumbles badly on his suburban backyard stage, so along with buddy Glenn
(Patrick Renna) he seeks advice from TV illusionist "Blackmoor" (Russ Tamblyn). Blackmoor is an irascible has-been actually named Sid Berkowitz; sorry at disappointing the boys, he gives them a "magic" ring mailed to him by a well-wisher. Back home, Johnny is amazed to discover he can perform
genuine feats of sorcery with the ring on--but cannot retrieve his sister Andrea (Sarah Hazeltine) after making the little girl disappear in front of neighborhood kids. Accompanied by a shaken Blackmoor, Johnny and Glenn determine that the ring was passed down in a neighboring family for more than
a thousand years, from Merlin himself. Only through Merlin can Johnny recover Andrea. Johnny and Blackmoor teleport to Arthurian England, conquered by a ghoulish usurper named Malfeasor (Michael Ansara), who has imprisoned King Arthur (Jack Donner) and tricked Merlin out of his mighty ring.
Johnny's presence now means that two mighty rings are present, but their opposing power cancels each other out, and Johnny fights the fiend. Fortunately, Blackmoor finds the sword Excalibur, and it tips the balance to destroy Malfeasor. A grateful Arthur knights Blackmoor, and Merlin returns the
heroes to their own era, where Johnny makes Andrea reappear, just in time for their parents' return from a trip.
There's something innocent and appealing about the way in which JOHNNY MYSTO begins, focusing as it does on juvenile characters and their preoccupation with feats of legerdemain. But the hex of a slow pace and low budget keep the pot merely simmering instead of bubbling over with entertainment.
The mythic Camelot (actually a castle near Bucharest) looks bleak, underpopulated, and uninviting, and both Merlin and Arthur lack any sense of grandeur. Child-star-turned-B-cult-actor Tamblyn (TOM THUMB, SATAN'S SADISTS, INVISIBLE MOM), on the other hand, is most aptly cast as a Blackstone-type
prestidigitator who's seen better days. Tamblyn's daughter Amber, eagerly spouting Olde English, takes a supporting role as Merlin's apprentice. For his part, Ansara tries hard to bring life into the film, but winds up looking like a hammier version of "Death" from THE SEVENTH SEAL (1957). The
barrage of computer-generated special effects in the finale perk the proceedings up a bit, but as it stands, JOHNNY MYSTO is mostly forgettable kiddie fare. (Violence, substance abuse.)
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- Released: 1998
- Rating: PG
- Review: This middling children's fantasy went the straight-to-video route in 1998. The medieval land of Merlin the Magician (Ian Abercrombie) is attacked by invaders. The wizard sends a mystic summons through time and space. In the present, an adolescent amateur… (more)