J.A. Bayona may never have made an out-and-out blockbuster, so far as American audiences are concerned, but he has also never made an uninteresting movie. From The Orphanage through The Impossible, onto a couple of episodes of the masterful Penny Dreadful (if you have not watched this series, one of the best-written to hit cable TV, you must: It's streamable now on Netflix) to his newest work, A MONSTER CALLS, the manner in which Bayona handles what seems to be his favorite theme -- children-in-trouble -- grows ever more masterful.
Pete's Dragon, and yet the two movies are very different. Bayona's is the darker and much more complex. It will give the children who see it plenty of impressive special effects to view, but it will also offer quite a challenge in terms of understanding the lessons that the titular monster imparts to the child.
Lewis McDougall (who made his screen debut just last year as Nibs in Pan), and the monster who takes him in hand and seems to have burst fully-formed from a giant old tree is voiced by Liam Neeson (below). It's a great combination, made even more productive and exciting by the extraordinary visuals Bayona and his team have created.
Felicity Jones, below), Conor is bullied at school and is saddled with an absentee dad,
Sigourney Weaver, below) whose cold demeanor seems to offer little comfort or help. The movie manages to combine its necessary "lessons" with enough visual pizazz, warmth, charm and energy to keep its slightly-too-long running time properly atmospheric and effective.
Focus Features, the movie opens nationwide today, Friday, January 6. Focus' web site for the film is no help in providing playdates, cities or theaters in which the film is showing. Click here for the Fandango site for the film and/or tickets.