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VOD Review: Come Away

December 7, 2020

By John Corrado

★★ (out of 4)

Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan come together in Come Away, a live action fairy tale mashup that features some appealing ideas and elements, but doesn’t quite come together as a whole.

The main characters are Alice (Keira Chansa) and her brother Peter (Jordan A. Nash), two kids who spend their days engaging in free-spirited imaginative play in the English countryside. The two kids, along with their older brother David (Reece Yates), occupy themselves with pretend tea parties and pirate ships.

But the fun ends when tragedy strikes. With their parents, Jack (David Oyelowo) and Rose (Angelina Jolie), left in despair, Alice and Peter decide to take things into their own hands. Peter steals his father’s prized pocket watch, a family heirloom, and travels to London to sell it, sending them on a real life adventure.

The film serves as the live action debut of director Brenda Chapman, a former story artist at Disney who also served as the co-director of DreamWorks Animation’s 1998 film The Prince of Egypt. Chapman’s most high profile project to date is Pixar’s 2012 film Brave, which served as the studio’s first (and so far only) fairy tale. While Chapman still shares a co-director credit on Brave, (and became the first woman to win an Oscar in the Best Animated Feature category), she was also unfairly sidelined from the project due to “creative differences,” with Mark Andrews being given the primary director role instead.

This is relevant because Come Away feels like the sort of project that might at one point have been envisioned as a Disney film, had that ship not sailed for Chapman. The screenplay by Marissa Kate Goodhill borrows story elements from both Lewis Carroll and J.M. Barrie, working familiar aspects of the former’s Alice in Wonderland and the latter’s Peter Pan into a more grounded story, complete with stand-ins for the Red Queen, Captain Hook, and the Lost Boys.

The film does do an admittedly clever job at times of finding ways to bring the two tales together, but parts of the story also feel underdeveloped, and it struggles to find the right balance between magical fantasy and more sombre drama. There is still enough in terms of imagination and attractive production design elements to make Come Away mildly worth a look for family audiences. But it doesn’t really add up to more than the sum of its parts, and the film as a whole has the curious feeling of not quite coming together in the end. I wanted to like it, but Come Away is ultimately an ambitious live action fairy tale that doesn’t quite work.

Come Away will be available for rent and purchase on a variety of digital and VOD platforms as of December 8th. It’s being distributed in Canada by VVS Films.

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