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Tales from Earthsea


Stars: Voices: Matt Levin, Timothy Dalton, Willem Dafoe, Cheech Marin, Mariska Hargitay, Blaire Restaneo

Director: Goro Miyazaki

It's true: cartoon features are getting longer. But longer doesn't necessarily mean better, and this Japanese version of some of Ursula le Guin's fantasy yarns might have been happier as a live-action film with CGI special effects. The animation here is on the crude side, particularly with human figures, and about on a par with that of a Scooby-Doo adventure on TV.

Dubbed into English, the dated-looking enterprise begins when Arren, a prince of the realm, murders his own father and flees. In the desert, he meets Sparrowhawk, an arch-mage (wizard) who tells him that things are desperately out of balance. Turns out it's the work of Cob, an evil magician who looks a bit like Julian Clary.

It's a good job Arren isn't all bad - only the part that's his shadow. Clear so far? Anyway, it all ends up with a good battle in Cob's castle, in which Arren's female friend Therru may or may not turn into a dragon.

There are plenty of dull bits, too, in which to get the kids ice cream: wise parents will choose the scene where Therru sings a boring song that seems to go on for ever. Dafoe has some sly fun as Cob, but most of the American voice cast seem to be just reciting their lines.

David Quinlan

Japan 2006. UK Distributor: Optimum. Colour.
116 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 29 Jul 2007