Watching the agreeable but somewhat tranquilized STORYBOOK, viewers can't help but consider the negative impact of Shelley Duvall's "Faerie Tale Theatre." Are camped-up, all-star productions the best way to present fairy tales to contemporary kids? Mercifully, STORYBOOK doesn't stick its
tongue too far into its cheek.
While chasing his dog, young Brandon (Sean Fitzgerald) magically enters the realm of Queen Evilia (Swoosie Kurtz) through the attic in his new home. Evilia has chained and tortured Prince Arthur (William McNamara) in hopes of locating a legendary sword through which she'll gain limitless power.
Heeding the advice of her serpent confidant Hiss (voice of Lorenzo Doumani), Evilia dogs the steps of intruder Brandon. Abetted by forester Woody (Richard Moll) who frees him from a trap, Brandon reluctantly agrees to help restore Arthur to power and thus earn his way back home. Scouring his
storybook for clues, Brandon journeys with Woody over a river of razor-fish, survives an attack by Dobermans that nearly costs Leo his life, and teams up with an Owl (voice of Robert Easton) and a vexatious kangaroo, Pouch (voice of Ed Begley Jr.) Inside the Cave of Faith, the sorcerer Illuzor
(Milton Berle) gives Brandon a stone that fits an illustration in his fairy tale book. Having located the sword and freed Arthur, Brandon's band must still battle Evilia. Brandon tosses the coveted sword to Arthur, and it dispatches Hiss en route. With peace restored and a de-beautified Evilia
punished in a room of mirrors, Brandon returns home through a keyhole opened by the sword and is reunited with his parents.
Good intentions are often the first step on the road to boredom, and STORYBOOK tries to dole out more lessons in maturity than any one fable can handle. All Dorothy had to learn in OZ is that there's no place like home. Brandon deals with moral responsibility, guilt over the fate of an oppressed
realm, and enough psychological symbolism to keep Bruno Bettleheim busy for awhile. Although STORYBOOK has that low-budget costume rental house ambiance and spends a lot of time outdoors to save on props and lighting bills, its visual economizing is balanced by a playful atmosphere. The cast cuts
up but never succumbs to hamming (even Berle is grounded for a change). While none of the adventures depicted will leave youngsters gasping in astonishment, they keep the plot line afloat with sufficient variety. Some of the sight gags, like Moll punching out a fish, are amusing, and Kurtz holds
the court intrigue together by queening it over the cast in a performance that recalls Bette Davis, Edna May Oliver, and Mabel King in The Wiz. While in no way a classic, this souffle makes the most of its modest virtues.
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- Released: 1995
- Rating: G
- Review: Watching the agreeable but somewhat tranquilized STORYBOOK, viewers can't help but consider the negative impact of Shelley Duvall's "Faerie Tale Theatre." Are camped-up, all-star productions the best way to present fairy tales to contemporary kids? Mercifu… (more)