The City of Lost Children - * * *

Astounding imagery combine with bizarre characters and comedy in this dark and twisted French fairy tale. A lonely inventor decides to create a family to keep him company. Unfortunately, his creations do not turn out as planned. His beautiful wife is only three feet tall. His brother is a headache-prone brain, floating in a tank. His six clones are all narcoleptic, and his son, Krank, doesn’t have a soul. Krank cannot dream, and therefore ages prematurely and becomes hopelessly evil. He dispatches his inventor/father and with his family, begins a plan to kidnap children and steal their dreams. The nearby town’s main industry is a carnival, and is littered throughout with circus performers and freaks. The main protagonist is the carnival’s strongman, One (Ron Perlman). When his little brother is captured by Krank’s agents, the cyclopses (members of a blind order with supersensitive hearing), One begins a frantic search. He teams up with a tough and resourceful young girl, Miette, who leads a group of orphans to steal for their wicked headmistress, the Octopus (a siamese twin). The Octopus has other plans, however, and enlists the help of an old circus pal and his deadly trained flea, Fleakins, among others, to stop One and Miette. The film manages to carry off its unusual premise and characters with amazing visuals, combining varied camera angles and lighting with fantastic sets, unique actors, and computer imagery. On the level of acting, however, the film stumbles. Perlman doesn’t show much of a range, mostly looking morose, and consistently outstaged by the young actress portraying Miette. Some of the characters have a rather muddled motivation, but at least while the film is playing, you’ll only notice the breathtaking visuals.

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