Another of those films I really wanted to like. I certainly adore this kind of film, but unfortunately this one fell short. The world is an awkward mix of fantasy, modernness, and ancientness that doesn’t quite jell. The story meanders and you’re never sure where it’s going. Handled correctly, with proper foreshadowing, that can be good, but in this case it just means that everything comes across as jarring and uncomfortable, like being on a roller coaster where the ride takes sudden turns in the wrong direction. You’re never quite sure who is good or evil, what you should root for, and worst of all, the story always ends up back where it started, with the unfortunate children in the clutches of the same villain (Jim Carey). It is very strange. It’s not a magical world, yet there are weird magical-like things (i.e. the professor’s strange plants, the rickety house, the prophetess aunt, etc.). It’s not a fantasy world (children do not invent mechanical contraptions to escape death in fantasies), yet there are fantasy elements. The story goes nowhere (the children do not seem to learn or grow from their experiences and use that in the climax which would at least give their adventures purpose), and in the end it feels like a whole lot of hubub over nothing much. The main plot is also quite predictable, which makes the unexpected and strange people and contraptions too much purpose, as though they are there to entertain us since the plot won’t. This is not a terrible movie — there’s nothing particularly horrible about it — but it’s not a great movie. It’s disappointing since it obviously cost a lot of money to make and comes across like a major special effects showcase. Unfortunately, colorful characters and fancy effects don’t make up for the drab story.