The Secret of Moonarce (2008)

The Secret of Moonacre is a fantasy movie that begins with a young girl, Maria Merryweather and her nurse, Miss Heliotrope, dealing with the fact that her father has just died. Shortly after, she receives her only inheritance from him: a book containing a story about the Moon Princess, a woman so in tune with nature that she’s given the moon pearls. These have the power to grant any wish, good or evil. Maria and Miss Heliotrope are sent to live with Maria’s last surviving relative, her uncle Sir Benjamin, who greets her with disdain and takes her book, claiming it belongs with the house. Maria slowly discovers that things aren’t as they seem – that there’s magic in the valley – and that perhaps the book isn’t as fictional as it first appears. It also seems that the valley of Moonacre is heavily fought over by the dueling families, the Merryweathers and the De Noir. Suggested for audiences eight and up and the message focuses on overcoming pride, generosity and understanding.
This movie is based on the book The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge (listed as J.K Rowlings favorite childhood book), a Carnegie Medal winner. There is also a television series adaptation from 1994, entitled Moonacre. As an adaptation, the movie is not as faithful to the book as it might be, but it does not feel that so much was cut that it does not make any sense. All of Maria’s dresses are gorgeous, and all of the costumes in general look amazing. This is a decent movie with stunning visual affects and a likable heroine. The plot isn’t anything earth shaking, but it’s easily understandable and everyone shown as a poor role model is reformed by the end of the movie. There are also a variety of extremely adorable animals, including a rabbit and a unicorn. For lovers of fantasy, particularly those looking for a resolute female heroine, this is likely to be a good choice.
Warnings: There is some violence, though no one is seriously hurt, and it does appear that a dog dies for a brief time. However, the dog does get better. Her uncle, Benjamin, is a first genuinely unpleasant and seems a bit unstable. The father’s death at the beginning is upsetting, and played rather realistically. The father was killed by debt collectors, which is a bit dark. The viewer does not get to meet him, but Maria’s grief is obvious and she by the end learns to cope with the loss. -Margaret Amoonarche

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