Once you get past the creepy setup of an old man spending the wee hours in a movie theater playing dress-up with a pair of teens, Michel Ocelot’s animated adventure hits admirable notes of YA positivity. The kids, a girl and a boy, write and design their own stories—so much better than merely watching the tube—and launch themselves into six mini epics, replete with battles against injustice and the takeaway of staying true to one’s word. A dragon is slain, friendly animals offer assistance, and an African conga drum is mastered. Our two protagonists take the lead in roughly equal measure. Princess talk is kept to a minimum.
So why does the spark dim about halfway through? Generously, IFC Center is presenting an English-language dub of this French title, allowing young viewers to immerse themselves in the imagery rather than read subtitles. But Ocelot’s crisp silhouette animation gets a little tired, limiting character details to a shadowy void. (Aesthetically, it’s a touch pushy in its strident universality—sort of like listening to a Montessori teacher blather on for an hour and a half.) Tales of the Night trumpets heroism and DIY creativity, elements that can’t be dismissed given the questionable offerings targeted at tweens. But the film feels naive for an audience that’s ready for some harder truths.
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