School of Magical Animals 2023 Movie Review
Ida ( Emilia Maier ) has to move. She doesn’t want that because she’ll lose all her friends because of it, but there’s no other way. Her mother Elvira ( Marleen Lohse ) has found a hairdresser’s shop in the new town. Now she can finally be independent and arrange everything to her liking. When Ida, a lively girl with pigtails and colorful overknee stockings, comes to her new school, she is teased as Pippi. But the elementary school student doesn’t let that get her down. After all, she has already met Benni ( Leonard Conrads ), who also has no friends. In addition, teacher Miss Cornfield ( Nadja Uhl) also new at the Winterstein School. She seems to be quite nice, especially as she introduces something that’s never been done before: every child is to be given a magical animal – a companion who can talk and sticks with you through thick and thin. Ida and Benni are the first. The turtle Henrietta (voice: Katharina Thalbach ) helps Benni with his problems and the fox Rabbat (voice: Max von der Groeben ) stands by Ida.
This school is not ordinary. You can see that at first glance: turrets and pointed arches decorate the huge complex, old walls exude romantic charm. Grafeneck Castle in Lower Austria was transformed into the Winterberg School for the filming, which most young viewers have already read about through the book series of the same name by bestselling author Margit Auer . After all, the now twelve volumes are also used as first reading material in German elementary schools. The expectations of the film, which has been postponed several times and which is based on sequels from the outset, are high. A faint echo of Hogwarts boarding school from Harry Potter can’t hurt.
Director Gregor Schnitzler and screenwriter Viola MJ Schmidtdo everything to get off to a successful start. At Auer’s request, there are real actors and real settings, so no pure cartoons. But the filmmakers didn’t want to work with real animals, so the fox, the turtle and a magpie were designed on the computer and copied into the real film afterwards. The production spared no expense to ensure that this looks reasonably realistic. In addition, the story really pushes the pace, there are singing interludes by the actors, songs from the off, a lot of action and a crime story along the lines of “Who is the thief”? The adults are partly charismatic magicians like the teacher and her brother, the owner of the magical pet shop, Mister Mortimer Morrison ( Milan Peschel). On the other hand, to the delight of the children, they act as laughing stocks, such as the school director ( Justus von Dohnányi ), who is exaggerated as a fanatic about order, and his clumsy caretaker ( Heiko Pinkowski ).
However, the actual charm of the material suffers from the plus points of the film, the pacing and the rousing songs. There is little room for a sensitive interaction between the respective magical animal and the child assigned to it, especially since the animals look strangely smooth and artificial. The animation department could have given them a little more romance and old-fashioned animation playfulness, after all they should play out their individual magic and not come across as the latest craze of computer technology. At least a bit of individuality flashes when the turtle says something or does a break dance. The fox, on the other hand, seems shapeless in the role of a master detective. The search for the mysterious thief who steals everything from school could just as easily have done without him.
A surprisingly didactic tone also proves to be a problem of the overambitious entertainment spectacle. Book author Margit Auer actually wanted to avoid pedagogical instructions by making the magical animals friends of the children, who sometimes give useful tips and thus indirectly point out wrong behavior and harmful attitudes to their protégés. In the film version, however, the messages about the value of friendship and the harm of discord come across much more directly than in the book. Everything that is already contained in the images and the logic of the plot did not always have to be said. But the filmmakers clearly wanted to engage their young audiences rather than make them think about blank spaces. They may have succeeded
School of Magical Beasts focuses on fast-paced entertainment and is under a lot of pressure to live up to the expectations raised by the book’s original. The start of a planned film series must not allow itself risks and softer tones, because the second part has already been shot.