Review: The Magic Gate – Magic Arch 3D (2020)

The Magic Gate – Magic Arch 3D (2020)

Directed by: Vasiliy Rovenskiy | 85 minutes | animation, family | Dutch voice cast: Ricardo Blei, Juliann Ubbergen, Sarah Nauta

The underwater world has captured the imagination of animation filmmakers for years. Few ‘competitors’ can match the iconic status of the genre’s neo-classics, Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ (1989) and Pixar’s ‘Finding Nemo’ (2003) and ‘Finding Dory’ (2016). , although ‘Ponyo’ (2008) by the Japanese Studio Ghibli and ‘Song of the Sea’ (2014) by the seriously underrated Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon should also be mentioned. Many studios are trying to cash in on the success and bring a whole arsenal of sea creatures to the stage; from a complete seafood menu of fish and crustaceans to octopuses, marine mammals and turtles. The Russian animator Vasiliy Rovenskiy also takes his chance with ‘Magic Arch 3D’ (2020), the film that appears in our country under the title ‘The Magic Gate’. Rovenskiy, who served us the ‘Big Trip’ (2019) modeled after the ‘Madagascar’ series some time earlier, gets help from the American screenwriter Alec Sokolow, whose most important achievement is that he co-wrote the groundbreaking animation film ‘Toy Story’. ‘ (1995). Though his name has stuck with most people less than those of his co-writers Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, John Lasseter, Joss Whedon and Joe Ranft. The screenplays of ‘Cheaper by the Dozen’ (2003), the two ‘Garfield’ films and ‘Evan Almighty’ (2007) are also written by Sokolow.

For ‘The magic gate’ the necessary film clichés were dug up and thrown into the blender. The hero of the story is the young and humble dolphin Davey, a dreamy type who prefers to spend his days wandering the farthest reaches of Fish Town, where an impressive sunken city lies beneath the water’s surface. He also dreams about Mia, the beautiful pink dolphin who is the adopted daughter of the city’s mayor, a giant squid named Octavian. But Davey has tough competition, because the tough dolphin Alpha also competes for Mia’s hand. He is the leader of a select club of fish that has the noble task of guarding the city against evil invaders, such as the cunning anglerfish and the evil moray eels. One day, in the Sunken City, Davey discovers a magical gate that can turn any fish into whatever it wants. But then the moray eels also discover the gate and they want to use it for their own gain, with the aim of taking control of Fish City. When he tries to warn Octavian about this, his story is not believed. Only Mia gives him the benefit of the doubt, and she investigates herself. When the moray eels discover her, she is locked up. It’s up to Davey to free her before it’s too late. To do that, he must first reunite with his long-lost father, who was just as much an adventurer as he was and never returned after a mission in the sunken city. Can Davey find his father in time, protect his city from the moray eels and win the love of his life?

To get straight to the point: ‘The Magic Gate’ does not reach the level of the aforementioned illustrious films from the underwater animation genre. This Russian production clearly falls short in both narrative and animation. The characters are poorly designed and have little character or personality. It seems we are looking at the less successful versions of Pixar characters, let’s say the versions that just didn’t make it. Especially at the beginning of the film, when all the characters have yet to be introduced, ‘The Magic Gate’ has the greatest possible effort to hold our attention. Are we spoiled too much? Perhaps, but Rovenskiy and his team really could have put a little more effort into this. Just like in the characters and character development by the way. The adventure that the characters experience is composed of elements from all kinds of other films, so that the originality is hard to find. The makers of ‘The Magic Gate’ can only dream of the synergy between humor, emotion and experience that characterizes a good animation film these days. Is it all doom and gloom then? The little ones will still like this film, although there may be scenes in it that are a bit exciting for them (viewing guide is 6 years and older). Just like ‘Big Trip’, it also applies to ‘The Magic Gate’ that the makers put little love into it and above all wanted to earn money quickly.

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