Film Review – Secret of the Wings
Every day is a chance to learn something new. Today I learned about the “Disney Fairies” franchise. When J.M. Barrie created the world of Peter Pan and Never Land, he gave limited information about the Fairies. In an attempt to build upon and expand the mythos of these creatures, Disney green-lit a number of children’s books and several animated movies. Ok, so maybe what I learned isn’t exactly life-altering, but bear with me. Since 2009, five films have been released or are in current production. When Disney has an idea, they go all out, and with the quickness. The movie we’ll be discussing is Secret of the Wings (2012), the fourth of the five. I took reviewing this as a challenge: could I see it through the eyes of a child and not through the cynical filter of an adult? What do you think?
Ok, the movie wasn’t made for me, and that’s fine. I knew right away what I was in for when the majority of people at my screening were less than ¼ my own age (wow, I’m getting old). After walking out, one word came to mind that I think best describes the film: harmless. This was a harmless, cute, and thankfully short experience that does exactly what it intends. Young children—below the age of around 8—will get a kick out of it. It’s lighthearted and sweet, and characters are never truly put into terrifying situations. The target audience is very specific, and for the most part the filmmakers accomplish their necessary goals.
The story revolves around Tinker Bell (Mae Whitman), who also serves as the main protagonist of the entire Disney Fairies universe. In case you didn’t know, Tink is the blonde-haired fairy that helps Peter Pan, and has been adopted as an unofficial mascot for the Walt Disney brand. You know at the beginning of each Disney movie when that arch flies over the magical castle? That’s her. Anyway, we open up in Tink’s home in the Autumn Woods, where a number of fairies are busy making woven baskets. The baskets are then picked up by snowy owls to be brought over to the mysterious Winter Woods. Tink and her kind are never to venture to the Winter Woods and interact with the Winter Fairies, because neither can survive in the other’s habitat. If they do explore unsafely, their wings may break and fall off.
Things get interesting when Tink, while helping animals cross the border into the Winter Woods, accidentally steps over and witnesses her wings magically begin to glow. I know what you’re thinking: “How can this possibly be? What witchcraft is causing her wings to glow?” This is edge-of-your-seat material. Tink learns that the only person who knows why this happened is the Keeper (Jeff Bennett), the guardian of all fairy knowledge. Problem is, the Keeper lives deep in the Winter Woods. Tink, the ever-determined fairy that she is, decides to wrap her wings in a warm sweater and sneak over to the other side. To her astonishment, the Winter Woods are not as scary and dangerous as she thought. In fact, it’s just as pleasant and fun there as in the Autumn Woods. Winter Fairies are fun and caring too, despite whatever evil stereotype or propaganda she was taught. The main crisis involves her meeting and developing a relationship with the fairy Periwinkle (Lucy Hale). You see, Tinker Bell and Periwinkle were born out of the same laughter (because that’s how fairies are born). This means…wait for it…they’re sisters!
How can Tink and Peri build their family bond and unite the Autumn and Winter Woods if both cannot survive in the other’s world for too long? You’ll just have to watch the movie and find out! Like I said earlier, this movie is completely safe. Like many Disney productions, it wears the earnestness on its sleeve. The animation—while not mindblowing—is bright and colorful, and we get a nice sense for how expansive the world is. Perhaps it’s my fault for not being in tune with Barrie’s original stories, but my main complaints involve the movie’s basic rules and foundations. Where is this place in relation to the rest of Never Land? If all fairies are born out of the same laughter, why are they separated to different places? It’s kind of convenient that fairy wings magically heal when touched by the wings of another, isn’t it? And why does frost preserve living creatures, but ice destroys them? It’s as though the rules were being made up along the way to assure a happy ending. Trivial complaints.
And now a story. After watching Secret of the Wings, I felt compelled to watch something that would be its polar opposite. I settled on William Lustig’s Maniac (1980), about a psychotic man who kills people and takes their scalps as trophies. It’s a violent, gory, and all-around unsettling film. Two movies I would rather not see again for completely different reasons. After seeing these back-to-back, I think it might be time for a nice, middle-of-the-road romantic comedy.
Final Grade: B-