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There is a flurry of new films of fairy tales. Such movies may be aimed at the young, but many adults are in the audience. In subtle ways, these stories have much for older moviegoers. It may take a little reflection, but there are rewards for grown-ups to be found in films based on children's stories.
Happily N'Ever After weaves a new adventure based on well-known fairy tale characters. When the Wise Wizard goes on vacation, the Wicked Stepmother takes over and abolishes happy endings. Cinderella must take fate in her own hands and rally her friends to save the day.
If we dig into the symbolism, we can find psychological insights. The Wise Wizard could be our own good judgment distracted by diversions. The Wicked Stepmother might be an excessive need to control that can drain joy out of life. As Cinderella, we are all reminded to face vulnerabilities and take action.
Miss Potter depicts the life of the author of the Peter Rabbit books. It is the tale of a misunderstood child finding an artistic calling. The Peter Rabbit stories are timeless adventures that show us the mysteries of the natural world. When we identify with animal characters, we are reminded that we are also creatures of nature.
A stirring element of the film is Miss Potter's deep love of the countryside. It celebrates the sublime pleasure that can come from having a strong sense of place.
Arthur and the Invisibles is a hero's journey into the realm of gnomes. Think Honey, I Shrunk the Kids as initiatory adventure. When Grandma is about to lose her farm, young Arthur goes after his missing Grandfather's hidden rubies in a secret land of tiny creatures. This is not just a topic for children. At every age there are difficulties that call for imaginative solutions.
The story savors the splendors of small things. Maybe toddlers are onto something when they endlessly watch ants at work. The tale suggests that there are wonders close at hand that we miss in our busy lives. In an adult sense, this might refer to all that lies outside the margins of conventional thinking. This is anything that pulls us beyond familiar comfort zones.
Pan's Labyrinth is the most adult version of the current re-imaginings of fairy lore. In a time of war and oppression, a young girl with a strong imagination discovers a spiral stairway down to a mysterious netherworld. She meets grotesque creatures and learns she must perform three tasks to prove she is a long-awaited ancient princess. Is all this just fantasy? Perhaps the dream-like inner dimension is our most important reality. Maybe actual magic survives in fairytales and imagination.
The movie does not promise everyone a happy ending. This is a dark adventure that is honest about real terrors. Like the Brothers Grimm, Pan's Labyrinth scares as well as it guides. The willingness to face stern realities makes this film valuable for adults. It speaks to those dealing with hard choices.
We live in stories. Our hopes, dreams, sorrows, and nightmares form a narrative map for our journeys. Movies about fairy tales mirror the vivid inner adventures that unfold even as we go through everyday routines.
Maybe there are deep reasons we are imprinted with certain templates early. Revisiting such stories can help adults endure confusion, disappointment, and loss. They show us how to find direction and purpose amidst the ordinary chaos of our lives.