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The Pagemaster Review

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Richard Tyler, a timid boy, who is frightened of even riding a bike, is transported from an old library into a fantasy world populated by characters from literature. He then faces an uphill struggle to find his way home.

★★★★★

In the early 90s, every holiday season they would come, those eager-eyed, hopeful animated movies, each thinking they would be the young gun to see off the bullying box office presence of King Disney. And this mix of live-action and toon-action is no exception, with moppet superstar Culkin doubly present in his own and cartoon form, plus some fairly spectacular and spooktacular effects.

Young Richard Tyler (Culkin), a nervous misfit, learns the spirit of adventure when zapped into a magical library where he visits the lands of Horror, Fantasy and Adventure. There he encounters a host of literary denizens: The Hound Of The Baskervilles, Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde, Captain Ahab and Moby Dick, Long John Silver and a Dragon, opportunities for Richard to show the right stuff and throw in a few neat bookish gags. In the end, a new love for books enables Richard to learn a love of life, though it strikes you that becoming a bookworm would only serve to make a speccy brat even more of a misfit among his Nintendo-happy peer group.

The whole thing bursts with effort but its over-fussy characters, voiced by an array of blustering Star Trek veterans — Patrick Stewart, Whoopi Goldberg, Leonard Nimoy — don’t have the broad appeal of the market leading Disneys. It’s also remarkably cautious about its own theme, cosying up the horror section, while significantly missing from Culkin’s reading list is Romance, which renders this slightly too childish a picture for the broad family audience.

Although it might not grip adult audiences, it is nevertheless lively and colourful enough to please well-behaved children.