Young kids Will (Vidal Peterson) and Jim (Shawn Carson) are always looking for an adventure. They get more than they bargained for when an evil circus rolls into town. As they do. Proprietor Mr. Dark (Jonathan Pryce) grants wishes, but in a monkey’s paw-type way, for example giving an elderly school teacher the chance to be young again, and then making her blind. The boys are singled out after learning the carnival’s awful secret, and are subsequently hunted by Dark and his minions.
Made by Walt Disney Productions, it’s meant to be a kid’s movie—it’s rated PG. But there are a few things parents might not want their kids to see, like a wannabe lady’s man cavorting shirtless with a troupe of belly dancers, and a villain getting stabbed in the gut with a lightning rod, though there’s no blood—she just disappears in a sea of bad special effects. There’s also a rather creepy scene when Will dreams his room is full of tarantulas.
However, it’s more of an intellectual watch. There’s the interesting dichotomy of good and evil, embodied by Will and Jim, and the massive amounts of character development rather than action. The film can be a bit slow (but not boring) and is very dialogue-driven. The children’s dialogue in particular can sound a bit unnatural, for example Will’s exclamation of “Why, that’s tomorrow!” It was made in 1983, but has an overwhelming ‘50s feel to it, especially with schmaltz like, “Even now, on those special autumn days, when the air smells like smoke and the twilights are orange and ash gray, my mind goes back to Green Town, the place where I grew up.”
Overall, it’s acceptable for kids and adults as well—it’s neither too scary nor too melodramatic. Give it a look if you’re tired of animated Disney sap.