In Theaters, VOD and On Demand on June 9
The tale found in The Secret Kingdom (previously titled Don’t Go Below) suggests Peter’s (Sam Everingham) family and their life are in shambles. He has anxiety and other problems, and we don’t really know why. When his parents decide it’s best to move to the old homestead, they are all escaping something. Matt Drummond‘s junior effort (his third film) looks at how he manages, and what’s needed is a magical hero’s journey to help this boy cope.
This movie borrows from a lot of past familiar works, like The Golden Compass, The Lion, Witch and Wardrobe and perhaps also Neverending Story. There’s a Spielberg vibe when considering how the focus is really about Pete’s relationship with his sister. When his sister Verity (Alyla Browne) chides him at his insecurities, he’ll have to save face somehow than to say he’ll always be weak.
When the two get “transported” to another realm because of a freak earthquake, they better stay together. Just where they land is a sort of like Wonderland. Soon, they meet pangolins and a dragon who all fear The Shroud. I know what this term means, and it’s the first hint at where they are. If they are to make their way home, they’ll eventually have to enter it or deal with what is represents.
There are even mutant turtles (not the teenage kind) without their master. Although his wisdom can be heard, what’s presented is more akin to Harry Potter. Pling the pangolin (voiced by Darius Williams) is very much like Dumbledore. He keeps on harping on a prophecy. Although this gets beaten to death, that’s probably because there’s a reason behind it instead of saying this critter is of limited intelligence. But it’s his and other creatures’ ability to see things not all humans can suggest they and the girl are closer than they realise. Maybe Peter is imagining this adventure.
Even though most of the talking critters hail Peter as the once and future king, it’s a role he doesn’t live up to. He’s constantly reminded of it, and it’s plaguing him. That’s because they recognise something he did which deserves praise. Even his younger sister also thinks he’s deserving of the title.
And if I’m to read between the lines about what The Secret Kingdom is truly about, the way the secret gets revealed is very slick. Props go to Drummond for tackling a difficult topic with careful finesse. I had to rewatch this film twice to only confirm what I suspected, and to say anymore would spoil this journey to accepting anything fate delivers, which also includes facing disturbing threats with gusto.
5 Stars out of 5