Chil­dren’s cru­sade

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews - DON­ALD CLARKE

THE PRINCES’ QUEST Di­rected by Michel Ocelot G cert, IFI/Movies@Dun­drum/Movies@ Swords/UCI Tal­laght, Dublin, 98 min

JUST when you think you’ve got your head around the var­i­ous man­i­fes­ta­tions of the cur­rent an­i­ma­tion boom – Pixar’s dig­i­tal slickness, Aard­man’s clay­ma­tion, Tim Bur­ton’s un­set­tling stop-mo­tion – an­other whiz-kid pops up with a fresh in­no­va­tion.

Fo­cus on the char­ac­ters alone and you could un­der­es­ti­mate the artistry at work in Michel Ocelot’s star­tling mul­ti­cul­tural fairy­tale. The ide­al­is­tic prince and his Ara­bic friend do, it is true, move with the in­or­ganic stiff­ness we re­mem­ber from an­cient television se­ries such as Mr Benn and Mary, Mungo and Midge. But the back­grounds are so fab­u­lously or­nate, and the colours ev­ery­where so daz­zlingly vi­brant, that the film takes on an ec­static qual­ity all its own.

Full of wise mes­sages and good ex­am­ples, The Princes’ Quest, which takes place in France and north Africa dur­ing the 17th cen­tury (or so), de­tails the trou­bled re­la­tion­ship be­tween a Mus­lim boy and his aris­to­cratic Cau­casian friend. Azur, a prince, grows up hap­pily along­side Asmar, the son of his nurse, but, when they take to squab­bling in their ado­les­cence, the stern mas­ter of the house flings his ser­vant and her son from the door.

Many years later, Azur re­turns from his stud­ies and de­cides to go in search of the mag­i­cal fairy whose ad­ven­tures his nurse once re­lated. Along the way, he en­coun­ters a beg­gar, a young princess and his old friends.

The Princes’ Quest does, per­haps, try a lit­tle too hard to ad­dress “is­sues”. Ocelot’s script plainly seeks to act as a spur for con­ver­sa­tions on racism, sex­ism and the dan­gers of su­per­sti­tion. Still, the vi­su­als are in­tox­i­cat­ing. All things con­sid­ered, this orig­i­nal en­ter­tain­ment of­fers a de­cent way of whiling away the half-term.

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