donald houstondonald houston

The Secret Kingdom


‘…a welcome alternative to noisy, violent Hollywood…’

While I slowly start to reassemble my shattered psyche after internally consuming Transformers: Rise of the Beasts in one sitting, this might be the right time to look at a little, rather more wholesome counter-programming. Sure, crowds usually show up for the latest Hollywood junk-food destructathon, but there’s surely room for a little magic in our hearts, and that’s what writer/director Matt Drummond’s The Secret Kingdom attempts to conjure. Looking at the poster or trailer for this Australian film might suggest an adaptation of a venerable source, but The Secret Kingdom is an original that should work for adventurous kids who want another cinematic injection of that Harry Potter/Narnia formula.

‘Use your imagination, there’s still some magic in you…’ is the advice that Peter (Sam Everingham) gets when he and his sister Verity (Aylya Browne) are decanted to a new countryside residence in a Studio Ghibli style; glimpses of claws in the shadows, or eyes staring up through the knots in the floorboards suggest the children are not alone. The two are spirited away to another world where their route home is blocked, and they’re taken prisoner by a garrison of armed pangolin. It’s suggested that Peter is somehow the king of this magic land, but to achieve this goal and get home, he will have to show previously unknown reserves of bravery by overcoming The Shroud, a creature ‘made of fear itself.’

The Secret Kingdom is less about fighting and violence and more about spirit and ingenuity; it’s the kind of old-school story where the protagonist can go through the whole movie wearing his dressing gown, and that’s all good. JK Rowling didn’t invent this kind of narrative, she just provided an particularly elaborate variation on it, and Drummond takes a route-one approach to delivering entertainment. Rather than hand-to hand combat and cracking skulls The Secret Kingdom is more about making friends along the way, and the emphasis on puzzle solving, complete with helpful text and graphics on-screen, helps provide a more cerebral text that adults and children can enjoy.

That’s not to say there aren’t some great visuals here; a scene in which Peter plays Paper-Stone-Scissors with a room full of gigantic gauntlets looks splendid in a Terry Gilliam style, and the effects are fun to look at, without the shaky-cam aesthetics that makes many of today’s CGI films hard to watch. Maybe this film doesn’t have the cast of household name British thesps that seems to appeal to family audiences, but The Secret Kingdom is a welcome alternative to noisy, violent Hollywood; if you’re looking to feed the kids on something with a bit more fibre than the usual slick, sick stuff, The Secret Kingdom offers an alternative menu that discerning parents may want to snap up.

In US Theaters, VOD and On Demand on June 9 2023.


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  1. Hm. Let me think for a sec- Nope.

    Glad it’s something nice for the kiddies though.

    You not correcting dixpos anymore? See the ones I pointed out yesterday are still up. Are you still in your pyjamas?

    • Metaphorically speaking, yes. I shot a lion in there the other day. Typos fixed, Bunty, many thanks.

      You must have been a child at some point?

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