TINKER BELL AND THE PIRATE FAIRY
DIRECTOR: Peggy Holmes
VOICE CAST: Mae Whitman, Christina Hendricks, Tom Hiddleston, Lucy Liu, Raven-Symone, Megan Hilty, Pamela Adlon, Angela Bartys, Anjelica Huston, Tom Hiddleston
RUNNING TIME: 78 minutes
PART of a brand worth nearly half a billion dollars, this latest animated Tinker Bell film features the voice of Tom Hiddleston as pirate-in-training, and a sextet of spunky heroines.
Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy is an engaging, thoughtfully executed animated work and is still a film worth noting given its quality, its feisty emphasis on female solidarity (it passes the Bechdel test with flying colors), and the fact that it features Tom Hiddleston as the voice of young Captain Hook, a character only marginally less scheming and evil than his Loki in Thor: The Dark World.
Moreover, as a brand, Tinker Bell just keeps getting bigger, which is pretty impressive given it began as a series of home-entertainment tie-in titles (there have been four features before this, plus a 21-minute short) that have never had more than limited theatrical exposure in the US, although they’re shown in frequent rotation on Disney’s cable channels.
If you believe this might be evidence of the waning centrality of four-wall exhibition and the rising power of the family demographic, clap your hands.
Tinker Bell started out as nothing more than a darting stage light in the original 1904 theatrical version of JM Barrie’s Peter Pan, who famously dies in the play and gets resurrected during each performance by applause from all those who believe in fairies.
A hundred years later, powered by applause and the enduring love of fairy-besotted children, she’s squarely in the protagonist spotlight, and nicer, smarter than the jealous sprite who tried to get Wendy killed in the 1953 film.
But more important, Tink and her fairy friends are the anchors in a line of licensed entertainment character merchandise, Disney Fairies.
For those not up to speed with the myths built in the last four features (starting with Tinker Bell: A Fairy’s Tale from 2007), our six-inch-high heroine (voiced by Mae Whitman, who’s been with the franchise from the start) lives in Pixie Hollow, a fairy community where the division of labour is decided at birth when a fairy’s particular “talent” – be it for working with animals, plants or, in Tink’s case, making and fixing things – is unveiled.
Having shared adventures in the past, Tink is now close friends with five other fairies: Southern-accented garden fairy Rosetta (Megan Hilty), whose prissy ways provide comic relief; water fairy Silvermist (Lucy Liu); animal fairy Fawn (Angela Bartys); light fairy Iridessa (Raven-Symone); and frequently snarky wind fairy Vidia (Pamela Adlon). A new friend, Zarina (Christina Hendricks), works as a dustkeeper, helping with the production of the fairy dust that powers flight.
In her spare time, Zarina performs forbidden experiments with the rare blue dust that has strange, alchemical properties when mixed with other ingredients. But a lab accident goes very wrong and Zarina leaves Pixie Hollow in disgrace, taking the blue dust with her.
Tinker Bell and five besties set off to retrieve blue dust, and during one confrontation, a dust-related incident manages to scramble the sextet’s talents, so that Vidia becomes a tinker fairy, Rosetta an animal fairy and so on. Soldiering on, they track Zarina down and find that she’s become the captain of a band of pirates and had a makeover to give her a kick-ass swashbuckling look, complete with rock-star hair and thigh-high dominatrix boots.
Among the crew is a scurvy cabin boy, James (Hiddleston), who has a secret agenda. It’s only in the third act that the film reveals that James’s last name is Hook, but viewers savvy with Peter Pan, not to mention Disney’s Jake and the Neverland Pirates cable series, will figure out the connection early on, especially given the introduction of a baby crocodile into the story. Effectively, The Pirate Fairy is a Peter Pan prequel.
Director Peggy Holmes and producer Jenni Magee-Cook head a crew list with a high proportion of women, and are clearly working with a much more modest budget than Disney Animation’s other top-tier productions.
Even so, the craftsmanship standards are high here, from the CG-modelled animation to the character expressions, musical choices and editing. John Lasseter himself takes an executive producer credit, and there is Pixar-like attention to detail throughout.
It’s rather better realised than the shoddy Cars tie-in Planes, but the filmmakers had a much finer, more illustrious original story to work with in the first place. – Hollywood Reporter
If you like Tinker Bell you will love this.