Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie

directed by Lev L. Spiro

Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie 
It's a convention of the fantasy genre that the most deserving people tend to end up with magical powers: lonely orphans, desperate street kids, farm boys with a heart of gold and great courage, and so on. The other side of this is that the ambitious, selfish and downright evil characters also have magic, just to give those plucky orphans something to struggle against.

But no-one expects magic powers to be given to people who really don't have a need for it. And in this sense the children of the Russo family stand out as the least likely candidates for sorcerous powers. These New Yorkers seem to throw around spells like they're watering plants. They waste all that sparkly juice on things like packing suitcases, fixing their hair, or as a substitute for getting a taxi. What's more the daughter, Alex (Selena Gomez), is a brat. She's argumentative, she breaks the rules her parents lay down more often than not, and she moans about not getting her own way almost all the time. Her behaviour gets on everyone's nerves, especially those of her hard-working elder brother Justin (David Henrie).

When the family go on holiday their three children are bored to tears by their parents' memories of the way they first met. What's more, her mother (Maria Canals-Barrera) restricts Alex's freedom and forbids her from doing whatever she wants to. Frustrated, Alec wishes her parents had never met. Unfortunately she accidentally conjures a spell which means she and her brothers will cease to exist unless she figures out how to undo it. The siblings only have a short time to reverse the spell before they disappear completely. Bickering all the way, they set off to find an artefact that they hope will save them, the Stone of Dreams.

There's adventure as the family brave a number of dangers in the jungles of the Caribbean resort. That's danger in the sense of mild excitement, rather than the kind that involves hostile natives, wild animals and death-defying leaps all in the same scene. It's not Indiana Jones. Instead the film concentrates on the funny situations that arise from family tensions, or from parents who have forgotten who their own children are.

The story is quite predictable. Since this is a children's movie that's not necessarily a bad thing, since it means the plot is easy for young viewers to follow. The tone is very light, and Alex does get more likeable as we get further into the story. It all moves towards a sugary ending, however.

Putting magic in the hands of an ordinary, somewhat careless family is as close as Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie comes to being unorthodox. And even here it's not entirely original, covering similar ground to Sabrina the Teenage Witch and the 1960s TV series Bewitched, for instance. This is a bland, harmless, cute movie, with a touch of the extreme sweetness that's so characteristic of Disney.

17th April 2010

Film Details

Year: 2009

Categories: Films

  Kids     Fantasy

Classification: U

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2 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson

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