Aaron's Magic Village

USA - 1997

Movie Review By Andrea Chase

If you only knew how much I was looking forward to "Aaron's Magic Village," an animated film based on stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer about the mythically foolish village of Chelm. Imagine my chagrin, no heartbreak, when it quickly became apparent that the opening credits, that put Hebrew vowels under the English ones, was the wittiest concept in the film. The animation is pedestrian, the songs, composed by Michel Legrand, are annoying and what they did to Singer's stories, oy gevalt. Lost entirely are the delicate irony and gentle wisdom.

The plot has newly orphaned Aaron coming to live with his aunt and uncle in Chelm, a town renowned throughout the known world for its inventive and total foolishness. The inhabitants, of course, think they're the wisest people in creation. Could there be better fodder for a kid's film? But no, the filmmakers inject a standard issue evil sorcerer who's planning to destroy the world, starting with Chelm. Why Chelm when left to its own devices it's its own worst enemy? Who knows? In a fit of overkill, the sorcerer decides to use a golem, yet, a monster made of clay and water, to take care of the job.

The characters are embarrassingly derivative. Aaron bears a striking resemblance to the purveyor of Lucky Charms, his pal the lantuch, a household sprite, owes much to the snap, crackle, and pop guys, and the golem's rampage through an already ramshackle Chelm is Godzilla in the Urals. Further, the Zohar, the book that figures into the plot and over which everyone gets their babushka in a twist, is usually rendered into English as the Book of Splendors, not Book of Marvels. Why get that detail wrong?

One good thing, though, might come out of "Aaron's Magic Village." If Emerson's Law of Compensation holds true, someone from the world of books on tape will hear Fyvush Finkel's wonderful narration and decide to have him record all of Mr. Singer's works. We should be so lucky.

© 1997 Andrea Chase Air Date: 9/17/97



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