Faeries is gorgeous, but a bit grim

Friday, September 29th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

By Michael Janusonis / The Providence Journal

The latest entry into the ever-growing animation field, Faeries (Paramount, $19.95), comes to home video after its January showing on the STARZ cable network.

An interesting blend of computer and traditional animation give Faeries an eye-popping, glittery look. The story is strong, too, although vaguely familiar in its good-versus-evil subtext.

George and Nellie, a brother and sister on a visit to the countryside, discover the entrance to the fairy kingdom in a magical oak tree. There's a lot of nifty and enticing stuff at the start, including a friendly hobgoblin, a not-so-friendly raven and many rules to follow for those who enter the fairy kingdom. For one thing, if you eat or drink anything there, you can never leave.

When the fairy prince falls in love with a human farmgirl, it creates all sorts of problems. But they're minor compared to attempts by the prince's evil twin brother (yes, his evil twin!) to take over the throne by having George and Nellie steal the magic orb that gives power to the kingdom.

George and Nellie don't realize it at first, but if the orb goes, the centuries-old fairies will revert to their natural state and grow old, wither and die. The evil brother corrals George and Nellie into stealing the orb by kidnapping the baby of their friend, holding it for ransom. Complicating things is that the evil twin could be anywhere because he is a shape-shifter. One of his disguises is that nasty raven.

All this sets the stage for some hair-raising fantasy adventures for George and Nellie. They ride the backs of bumblebees; go up against the evil twin who has shape-shifted into an Alien-like monster. Some of Faeries may be too scary for children under ages 7 or 8.

The story is surprisingly somber. The best children's fare usually has broad comic elements, but there are few of those in Faeries. Although romance sparks the plot, the good prince is required to throw over a perfectly nice and understanding fairy princess so he can wed a human. That doesn't make him seem so nice. Besides, their romance is so offhanded and sudden, you may miss the attraction between them.

Yet the animation is far more interesting than what you usually get in TV productions such as this, the plot has more depth and the voices are created by such accomplished actors as Kate Winslet, Jeremy Irons and Dougray Scott. So Faeries has dramatic punch to its dialogue.

One-night stand

Just One Night (First Look, $89.95) sounded like fun, even though it hadn't gotten wide theatrical release.

After all, in the opening scene a young woman confesses that she has "lied, stolen, committed adultery, tried to kill my husband . . . and that's just since dinnertime."

In flashback we get to see how all this came about. She's a flighty woman. Bored with her wealthy, alcoholic husband, she falls in love at first sight when her taxicab collides with a cab carrying a professor who is passing through San Francisco on the way to his wedding in New York. He has lost one of his shoes and is out looking for an all-night shoe store so he can buy a new pair. She is looking for a new adventure.

Just One Night attempts to play this as a lighthearted, 1930s-style screwball comedy. But it's too lead-footed. There's little chemistry between Timothy Hutton as the professor and Maria Grazia Cucinotta (of the hit Italian film Il Postino ) and the comic moments seem contrived. It's hard to imagine the strait-laced professor falling for this dippy woman who makes up her own rules as she goes along, especially after she gets him a shoe by smashing the window of a shoe shop.

It's apparent soon into Just One Night why it never got a wide release in theaters.

New on DVD

The sports films Rudy , about a pint-sized player who manages to join the Notre Dame football team, and Gladiator , about a pair of teenagers who put on gloves for illegal underground boxing, have been released by Columbia TriStar at $24.95 each.

Miramax has put all three Scream movies into a boxed set selling for $89.99.

Jazz sounds

Jazz fans should check out the offerings from Rhapsody Films in Lyme, Conn. Recent offerings include the DVD release of Jazz on a Summer's Day , about the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, which sells for $29.95, and Barry Harris: Spirit of Bebop , about the modern jazz pianist and the musicians who influenced him, on cassette for $19.95. You can contact Rhapsody Films at 46-2 Becket Hill Rd., Lyme, Conn. 06371 or via the Internet at www.cinemaweb.com/rhapsody

Trollope series

British author Anthony Trollope's novels about romance and politics, The Pallisers , were turned into a 26-episode BBC hit in the 1970s. Now the first eight episodes are available from Acorn Media in a four-volume boxed set available on both cassette and DVD at $79.95.