After sci-fi I would say that one of my favorite genre for movies is fantasy. A good fantasy movie takes you to another world and is a good distraction from all of the troubles in your life. While you might initially think that I was interested in Once Upon… A Fantasy Film Collection for this reason, I actually had some alterior motives. As most of these movies were children’s movies made with small budgets, I was honestly mostly interested because I thought it would be perfect for finding some B movies that are so bad that they are actually good. Part of the reason why I thought this was that the set includes four movies that Rifftrax (a group that makes fun of bad movies) spotlighted. Those movies were Merlin: The Return, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, The Fairy King of AR, and The Little Unicorn. Several of the other movies had such silly premises that I also thought they could be quite hilarious to watch. There were others that looked interesting enough that they could have been good family fantasy movies. As the set included ten movies there was bound to be some movies that were good and others that were duds. While I haven’t checked out all ten movies yet, here are my thoughts on the movies included in Once Upon… A Fantasy Film Collection.
The Magic Door (2004)
In The Magic Door Liam and Sally are having a hard time accepting their new stepmother. After one fight Liam and Sally decide to run away into the nearby forest. There they meet the world’s smallest troll Raglin. Raglin has been banished from his fairyland home due to the action of his fellow trolls who have since been turned to stone. Every so often a magic door appears in the forest though that gives him the opportunity to finally return home if he can actually find it. Meanwhile in fairyland an evil witch is trying to take over the kingdom by eliminating the fairy princess. As Raglin is the only one who can stop her she sends an elf named Flip to try and stop Raglin from reaching the magic door. Can Liam, Sally and Raglin find the magic door in time to put a stop to the evil witch’s plans?
I normally wouldn’t have had much expectations for The Magic Door, but it actually had a stronger cast than most of the movies in this set. Being a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer I have always liked Anthony Head’s acting. Based on the premise, the movie’s horrible score on IMDB, and the movie’s low budget I was hoping that it was going to be a B movie that was so bad that it was actually kind of good. The end of the movie almost reaches this point as it is silly to the point where it is actually kind of funny. Unfortunately the rest of the movie is kind of dull. The movie doesn’t really have much of an overarching story and the plot kind of drags despite being only 89 minutes long. This isn’t helped by the fact that the acting is pretty bad all around and this includes many of the adult actors as well. Mick Walter as Raglin is easily the star of the movie. Ultimately The Magic Door is an okay movie, but it is nothing special. I could see younger children enjoying it quite a bit more though. 2.5/5
The Last Leprechaun (1998)
After the death of their mother Ethel and Tommy have had a strained relationship with their father Henry as he became more interested in his businesses than his family. On one of his business trips Henry meets Laura who he immediately falls in love with. This might have something to do with the fact that she is a powerful witch that has cast a spell on him. She needs his wealth for a nefarious plan in order to increase her own power. Their “romance” quickly leads to an engagement which brings the whole family to Laura’s home in Ireland. Ethel and Tommy quickly determine that there is something up with Laura. One day they run into a leprechaun Finn whose home is slowly being destroyed due to Laura’s evil plans. Finn, Ethel, and Tommy must work together in order to try and stop Laura’s evil plan before she succeeds.
With a title like The Last Leprechaun I have to admit that the main reason that I wanted to watch it was that I thought it was going to be so awful that it would actually be pretty funny. The movie had all of the makings of being a terrible movie, and yet it really isn’t. That doesn’t mean that it is great though as I would say that it is a pretty average movie. The movie was obviously made for children which means that it is kind of stupid and cheesy at times. The movie relies on a lot of slapstick comedy which is actually one of the movie’s greatest strengths. The leprechaun is actually pretty entertaining, and some of the overacting in the movie genuinely leads to some laughs. I think children could really enjoy The Last Leprechaun. The problem is that the second half of the movie kind of drags and the movie doesn’t do anything super well. Basically if you like cheesy children’s movies or have younger children it will probably be worth watching, but it isn’t a highly memorable movie. 3/5
Merlin: The Return (2000)
1500 years ago Merlin successfully trapped Mordred and Morgana with his magic in another dimension. In present day a scientist stumbles upon a portal which links our world with the world Mordred and Morgana were trapped in. The scientist agrees to open the portal allowing them to enter the present. This forces Merlin to try and stop them once again. To help Merlin brings King Arthur, Lancelot and his men to present day to help him defeat Mordred and Morgana.
As we previously took a look at Merlin: The Return in our Merlin 3 Film Collection review, I am going to be brief in my discussion of the film in this review. Based on its own merits the movie is not very good. The acting and action sequences are terrible, and the plot is simply silly. The movie had all of the makings of a movie that was so terrible that it would actually be enjoyable. I genuinely got some laughs out of it (mostly by making fun of the movie itself). The problem is that the movie doesn’t lean into its silliness which leads to it becoming kind of boring after a while.
After the death of his wife Tom a writer suffers from writer’s block. Instead of writing he spends most of his time reading fairy stories to his daughter. Listening in on his stories is the fairy Crystal. After an accident Crystal is transformed into human form and has no memory of her past life. On a time limit Tom and his daughter must try to return Crystal to her kingdom before The Collector captures her.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2001)
Ben is a normal kid until he discovers that his neighbor is the famed wizard Merlin. As the evil Morgana has risen, Merlin must teach Ben how to use magic so the two can team up and try to defeat her before her evil plans come to fruition.
The Fairy King of Ar (1998) AKA Beings
As children Kyle and Evie were told stories by their grandmother about the fairies that were trapped in a mine. After their grandmother’s death their family moves into her old home in Ireland which is far from a regular home. As they explore the property they find many fantastical things including an old abandoned gold mine. When they try to open up the old mine the townsfolk are hostile to them due to old tales that the mine is filled with evil goblins. When their father becomes ill with a mysterious disease Kyle and Evie remember the old tales told to them by their grandmother. Hoping to save their father Kyle and Evie must try to get the mine opened up in time so the fairies can help their father.
Heading into watching The Fairy King of Ar it seemed like the type of movie that could be so cheesy and stupid that in turn it would actually be surprisingly enjoyable. This thought was supported by the fact that the movie actually has a Rifftrax made for it. I will admit that my first impressions were wrong. While the special effects are laughably bad (think 1990s low budget movie quality), the movie is not as stupid as I expected it to be. The movie is obviously gauged more towards children and families which means parts are kind of silly. The movie is not bad for adults though as it is a decent fantasy movie. Not spectacular by any stretch of the imagination, but The Fairy King of Ar is a solid movie that fans of family fantasy stories will probably enjoy. 3/5
The Little Unicorn (1999)
Polly has a happy life living on her grandfather’s farm. This all changes when her favorite horse dies while giving birth. At first Polly is heartbroken until she realizes that the new baby horse is instead a magical unicorn. The unicorn quickly bonds with Polly and her grandfather. When locals discover the unicorn though they try to kidnap it for their own nefarious deeds.
The Excalibur Kid (1999)
While there aren’t exactly a lot of highly-rated movies in this set, The Excalibur Kid is actually the worst film on this release if you go by IMDB ratings with its awful 2.7 score. While its hard to judge a B-movie solely by its IMDB rating, the rule of thumb is generally the lower its rating, the better it is as riffing material. Unfortunately, The Excalibur Kid isn’t exactly the hilarious B-movie I was hoping it would be. Outside of one actor’s performance, this is just a below average Merlin/Arthur film that is better than its IMDB rating would indicate but also not as unintentionally funny as I was anticipating.
The Excalibur Kid is your typical teenager/kid transported back to Arthurian times tale that feels like it has been done hundreds of times before. Obnoxious 15-year-old Zack (played by an actor who looks more like a twenty year old to me) is angry because his family is planning on moving to the city, completely interrupting his life, his relationship with his new girlfriend, and his status on his fencing team. He wishes he could go back to the time of chivalry and swordsmanship and what do you know, his wish is granted when a witch calling herself “Maive” brings him back in time so he can pull Excalibur out of the stone just before Arthur can. Merlin wants the timeline to return to normal and enlists Zack to help convince Arthur to become the legendary king he’s supposed to be.
The lone bright spot here is François Klanfer’s performance as Merlin. I would say at least 95% of the humor and fun (which admittedly there isn’t much of in this film) comes from him. He’s a lovable grouch and often quite funny, especially when he transforms into various animals. The rest of the acting performances, the story, the sets, and sword-fighting are all pretty terrible and not in a funny B-movie kind of way. The Excalibur Kid is watchable (just barely though) but not exactly something I’d buy this DVD set for. 2/5
Dragonworld: The Legend Continues (1997)
Living in a remote part of Scotland, the young magician John only has one friend Yowler. The catch is that Yowler is the last dragon alive on Earth. When Yowler’s nemesis the Dark Knight returns he wants revenge on the dragon. He plans on killing the dragon to use its blood to unleash darkness on the planet. John is the only one that can stop the Dark Knight and save his friend Yowler.
The Secret Kingdom (1998)
With their parents away from home three siblings are getting on each other’s nerves. One night during a storm the youngest brother hears a strange transmission on his radio from a man in distress. Following the signal he ends up discovering a tiny kingdom nestled underneath the kitchen sink. The man from the transmission ends up transporting the children to his kingdom in hopes that they will help him and his fellow rebels defeat the evil ruler that wants to give everyone “Perfection”. Can the siblings help save the kingdom and find their way home?
Generally speaking I am a fan of movies that like to take a chance with a unique concept. What initially interested me about The Secret Kingdom was obviously the premise. While I knew the movie was going to be made mostly for children, the premise of a tiny kingdom located beneath a kitchen sink was so unique that I had to check it out. Due to its low budget and borderline stupid premise I thought it could be so bad that it would actually be pretty good. Unfortunately that was not the case as The Secret Kingdom is just kind of dull. At times the movie is somewhat funny mostly when it plays into the absurdity of the premise. These moments are far too few though as it feels like almost nothing happens throughout the movie. The Secret Kingdom is not a horrible movie, but it ultimately is kind of boring and forgettable. 2/5
We would like to thank Mill Creek Entertainment for the review copy of Once Upon… A Fantasy Film Collection used for this review. Other than receiving the review copy we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation. Receiving the review copy had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.