Thursday, April 11, 2024

Riddle Of Fire (2023) on VOD April 12


When their sick mother asks her kids to run out and get her favorite pie, the kids are set on a grand adventure involving poachers, witches, a huntsman and a fairy.

This twee family film is one of a growing genre of films where adults with best intentions make films that echo the films of their childhood, like GOONIES, KENNY & CO,  MONSTER SQUAD but are so saccharine and safe that they never really engage. The problem is not so much what happens, rather it’s in the feel of the film, which is so polished that there is never any danger or connection to reality.

Its that polished sheen that does in RIDDLE IF FIRE. Looking and like a fancy picture book from the 1970’s but with modern items such as paintball guns and cellphones. While there is nothing wrong with the script or the cast, director Weston Razooli makes the mistake shooting the film entirely with the storybook esthetic, people stand so they can be seen by the camera and not how they would in real life.  There is never any real sense of danger, there is no grit, just a sheen of a false nostalgia. In GOONIES or KENNY & CO or even MONSTER SQUAD there was an edge. There was a danger to the characters (hence the reason the ending of MONSTER SQUAD is so bittersweet) that made us lean in and worry about whether they will be alright or not. We never feel that in RIDDLE OF FIRE. We know from the opening minutes, that life is a story and it’s all going to be okay. The stakes are so low that we know the lids are going to skate. There is nothing wrong with that assuming that the filmmakers can give us at least one moment of uncertainty or one moment where it was about more than pie, but it never happens.

Forgive me for kvetching, but so much in RIDDLE OF FIRE that is really good that the fact it never quite makes it compelling disappoints. This should be a classic (there is classic stuff here) not just okay.’

Is it worth seeing?

Now that it’s streaming yes.

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