The Pagemaster Reviews
The Pagemaster (1994) remains one of my favorite childhood movies. Joe Johnston's direction is slick and moody, which leads into the dark fantasy adventure all in hand drawn animation. Johnston has an eye for filming rainy days and dim libraries. Johnston's direction within the eerier library persists as some of his best work.
To some, I'm sure the animation looks older and cheap, but I continue to find the animated portion of The Pagemaster thrilling and smooth. The bright colors pop and the characters are charming. Children will love the jokes and journey and will easily be able to follow along. Pixote Hunt's direction in the animated segments is steadfast and quickly moving from area to area. The actual drawings from animator Pixote Hunt is simplistic in design, yet still stylish. I was particularly impressive with The Pagemaster's character design centered around literary concepts. I think the electric fairies sequence is as beautiful as any animated moment in film.
While The Pagemaster slows down in the middle, I think it is short enough to hold your attention. The darling performances still entertain me in a fanciful and fun way. Maccaulay Culkin is adorable and perceptive as ever as Richard Tyler. Meanwhile, Christopher Lloyd is magically endearing as The Pagemaster.
I think the aspect of The Pagemaster that people remember most is the talking books and their great voice acting. The Pagemaster features personified literary characters and genres brought to life by talking volumes. These tomes speak through the vocal talents of the Patrick Stewart, Whoopi Goldberg, Frank Welker, Leonard Nimoy, and Jim Cummings. Stewart is hilarious as the ceaselessly complaining Adventure full of boasts and braggadocio. Goldberg is the fairy like Fantasy with whimsical sarcasm and kindness. I really like Welker's take on Horror constantly being afraid at the horrors surrounding him. Nimoy is a frightening and creepy Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Lastly, Cummings is perfectly cast as Long John Silver.
Lastly, I absolutely love James Horner's score. The Pagemaster's sounds are straight out of a fantasy world with sweeping and tender moments alike. The main melody is truly mesmerizing. Horner was a brilliant composer.
In short, The Pagemaster is a sweet kid's adventure movie. There are many delightful performances and some cool sequences. It captures the magical joy of reading. I think The Pagemaster is worth showing your kids just for the fact that it promotes reading like diving into new fantasy worlds. It also teaches the value of bravery and courage in the face of adversity and confronting your fears.
There's nothing wrong with teaching kids the values of reading, but by skimming through each scene, by not giving two cares in the world about the books it is portraying, and to have the nerve to disguise all this mess underneath a costly fantasy animation. One must wonder what the 21 million dollar budget would've gone into instead of this dreck?
While much of the (ahem) expensive/big-name performances are bland to the bone, even annoying to some degree because of the direction and script, but Christopher Lloyd, in particular, comes across as straight-up creepy and frightening to younger audiences with his over-the-top performance.
To conclude, there exists video games, music, and other forms of art mediums that were out back in 1994 that properly taught the importance of literature to children and that list has only continued to grow over the years since. If you hate kids, then let them watch this film.