Olias Barco’s A Magical Journey is a fantastical tale for the younger set. It’s the story of a young girl, Polina (Polina Pechenenko), an 11-year-old orphan living in exile in a small room in her aunt’s home. Feeling sorry for Polina, her cousin Dylan gives her a box of trinkets that she believes are her parents’ last remnants, including a piece of a torn-up photo and a pass to the movie studio her parents once owned.
Knowing that Polina will eventually take over the studio, her aunt decides to poison her on her twelfth birthday. But, the child escapes and goes to the studio for answers. Upon arriving, Polina blends in with a bunch of kids attending film camp. Word comes from Polina’s aunt that she is there, and studio head Saul (Saul Rubinek) is ordered to find her.
In all the commotion, Polina stumbles across the fact that the studio is magical, and she is under a curse. Before turning twelve in less than a day, Polina must find the missing pieces of the family photo she found in the box or be doomed to live in the cinematic world forever. She to numerous sound stages and is dropped into various worlds and genres. She begins in a war-torn village and then to an old boxing ring, where she befriends a sort of mute boxer.
As Polina moves from one set to another, the characters in the filmic universe are the kids and adults she met at the studio camp “playing” various roles. On the school set, the nasty teacher locks kids up in a dunce cage when they mess up. The headmaster, played by Saul, soon rescues those kids, and we realize he may be more of an ally. As Polina moves from set to set, a mystical hologram (Jean Reno) guides her as she uncovers the true story of her family as she fights her evil aunt in a classic medieval showdown.
“…Polina must find the missing pieces of the family photo she found in the box or be doomed to live in the cinematic world forever.”
The moral of A Magical Journey is about family. The orphaned Polina goes on a harrowing adventure to uncover her history, including the search for her father, who is not dead, but in fact, has been in jail and ordered as part of his parole conditions to never return to the studio nor look for Polina. The tale is about the strength we gain from our family bonds.
Director Barco’s feature plays more for kids who are into make-believe and fantasy than every family member, no matter their interests or age. As a result, adults may find the story lacking in many ways. Polina jumps from one adventure to the next, but what could have genuinely elevated A Magical Journey was a sense of the lessons learned at each location that makes her a stronger person heading down the road of adulthood. Instead, she most simply obtains the pieces of the photo.
Screenwriters Olias Barco, Saul Rubinek, and Anouchka Walewyk do a fantastic job creating a colorful and fantastical world based inside a movie studio. There’s an overall sense of fun, which is perfect for kids. It has vibes of the old Pippi Longstocking. Oddly, it has a similar approach to dialogue because the entire film feels like it is heavily overdubbed, and I can’t tell if it is originally a foreign film or not.
If you have young kids, A Magical Journey is a delightful tale. Though, a profound moral in the end would have broadened its audience to include parents.
"…about the strength we gain from our family bonds."