Admittedly, although I like to say I’m a big fan of Disney films and IP, I’m not an expert in the world of Tinker Bell. I have sons, not daughters, so I’ve roped in Bacsha Fakier, an expert on Tinker Bell and her Fairy crew, and she’s gone head to head with the Neverbeast to review this film. If you’ve daughters with a penchant for Tinker Bell and her fairies, read on.
There are Tink Fans, and there are die-hards, and then of course there are those unfortunate parents who get dragged to the movies to painfully endure 90 minutes of pint sized cheeky chirpiness. I am one of the die-hards, so I know my Tinker Bell lore. As a true Tinker Bell fan, I get excited for the Pixie Hollow crew in any shape or form and I have never ever been disappointed, so let’s quickly get the facts out in the open.
Tinkerbell and the Neverbeast is a bit of a misnomer. The movie is centred on Fawn, the usually sweet-natured animal fairy. Neither Tink nor the rest of the crew are featured much. In fact, the remaining fairies were generally limited to a few perfunctory gasps, giggles, and a couple of heartfelt one-liners. There’s a bit of ambivalence around the title choice. Do I like the use of Tinker Bell’s name as the headlining act? Do I not like? I’m still not sure. Nevertheless, I get the “Let’s stick with the brand” theory. Fawn and the Neverbeast doesn’t have quite the same draw as using Tink’s name. Having said that, as with the previous film, Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy, it was wonderful to see Pixie Hollow and the fairies in 3D.
The movie starts out with a peek into the well meaning but mischievous side of Fawn’s personality, (a new perspective) where she inadvertently gets into spats of trouble while trying to care for all animals alike. On one particular day she is drawn to a dark mysterious cave by some deep, pained groans. Since caring is obviously is her true calling, she cannot ignore the painful sounds. She isn’t easily swayed by the ominous looking abyss and ventures in. She soon uncovers the furry beast who is sleeping restlessly from the discomfort of a thorn in his paw. Fawn quickly jumps in to assist, waking him up as she dislodges it. Before long, the beast emerges from the cave and begins to explore his surroundings.
The 3D effects really come to life in the forest where the two spend their time. Gruff, as she calls him, true to his character, is somewhat aloof and coarse in his habits, as he tirelessly busies himself collecting, sorting and arranging stones, slobbering all over his creations. Fawn uses this time to study his behaviour, and soon the pair form a bond.
Gruff’s debut to the rest of the crew is met with polite scepticism but the fairies cautiously support Fawn’s new endeavour. At this point, one thing that becomes very apparent is Fawn’s role in the group. Being the star in this movie, her character was spiced up with a bit of sass and quirk, while her warm caring side that we’re all familiar with is developed to its fullest, without being dull. Perhaps the new addition to the cast is the reason? It seems that some of Ginnifer Goodwin’s independence and bubbly spirit replaces Angela Bartys’ (who previously assumed the role of Fawn) introverted girl-next-door sympathy.
Fawn’s unyielding tenacity and quick thinking competence (which tends to surprise, every so often) becomes her survival tools as she cleverly responds to the quick turning events as she anticipates obstacles in Gruff’s prospective integration into the Pixie Hollow family.
She faces strong but fair antagonism from Nyx, (Rosario Dawson) the leader of the esteemed Scout Fairies, where the two continually push to further their cause. Fawn’s belief that one ‘cannot judge an animal by its fangs’ fuels her desire to help all animals, regardless of their gruff appearance, is challenged by Nyx’s fierce protection of their home. Nyx and the rest of the gracefully agile scouts barely keep their heads above water as Fawn and crew foil any plans that could harm Gruff. The crux of the story is essentially this: is Gruff the Neverbeast Legend, who appears amidst a lighting storm after a comet passes by, to expedite the end of Pixie Hollow, or is it all just a coincidence?
The movie is filled with suspense and mystery, with several twists in events that could mean the disastrous end of Pixie Hollow. The age appropriate uncertainty is well played, without being too extreme or scary. The balance in the score and visual settings makes the movie sufficiently friendly for younger movies. As an example, where the background sound indicated imminent danger, the forest setting was still green and magical (albeit a deeper darker green), and the dark stormy scenes were filled with earnest dialogue instead of spine chilling music.
The story is beautifully woven with relevant little life lessons such as seeing past what the eyes see, caring for the socially marginalised, and protecting the vulnerable. Fawn and Nyx finally meet eye to eye and achieve a dramatically orchestrated win-win, where they both follow their hearts (where their hearts and heads say the same thing) and stay true to their core values.
The film’s music and songs are not going to stick in your ears for a long time (at least not without many, repeated listenings), but overall, the music wasn’t bad, if somewhat forgettable. The main song, by KT Tunstall, felt a little out of place in the film, but the majority of it was pleasant, if simply OK.
My chief criticism of the film is the headlining of Tinker Bell when she barely plays a role at all. The first third of the film is almost nothing but Fawn. People going to see the film and expecting one that’s a lot like Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy will be a little disappointed, but the development of Fawn’s character was still a welcome view. Has Tink herself become less relevant in Pixie Hollow? I’m not sure, but it does seem to be heading in that direction.
Overall, I’d recommend Tinker Bell and the Neverbeast to Tinker Bell fans and young fairies-in-training with the warning that, despite strong characterization from the other fairies, Tink herself doesn’t play a large or significant role in this film. As with all magically happy kiddie films, we can all go home with singing little hearts, but brace yourself parents: take tissues! There are quite possibly tears to be had from your young ones! Me? I bawled! I have a low threshold.
Don’t judge me.
Final Score: 7.5 Fairy Prawns out of 10
Director: Steve Loter
Producer: Michael Wigert
Executive Producer: John Lasseter
Screenplay: Tom Rogers, Robert Schooley, Mark McCorkle, and Kate Kondell
Starring: Mae Whitman (Tinker Bell), Ginnifer Goodwin (Fawn), Rosario Dawson (Nyx), Lucy Liu (Silvermist), Raven-Symoné (Iridessa), Megan Hilty (Rosetta), Pamela Adlon (Vidia)
Studio: DisneyToon Studios
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
Age Rating: All
Release Date: 9 January 2015
Running Time: ± 100 minutes