Although the Astrid Lindgren novel on which Mio in the Land of Faraway is based is a children's classic in many countries, the film version falls far short of capturing the special magic of the book. Mio is not a bad film, but it's one that has a distinct feeling of déjà vu; the filmmakers have taken the basic story of Lindgren's novel, which is extremely familiar, but they haven't found a cinematic equivalent of the book's emotional resonance; as a result, what's on screen comes across as similar to hundreds of other children's "quest" films. The dialogue is especially poor; children will not likely care about this too much, but parents will grate their teeth at some of the sugary dialogue and roll their eyes at the over-explaining that occurs throughout the film. Things are not made better by Vladimir Grammatikov's heavyhanded and labored direction. Mio needs to fly, but Grammatikov keeps it stubbornly earthbound. Also a problem is the lead performance by Nicholas Pickard, which is acceptable but nothing more; it lacks drive and excitement, and is easily eclipsed by a young Christian Bale's turn in the traditional sidekick role. Christopher Lee enlivens things as the villain, and Susannah York and Timothy Bottoms do well with underwritten roles. The production is lavish, and so the film does have an impressive visual look, both in the design and in Kjell Vassdal's atmospheric lensing.
by Craig Butler review