‘The Magic Flute’ Review: Mozart Meets C.G.I., With Help From a Tween

A young tenor enters a world enlivened by computer graphics at a school devoted to the composer’s works in this Roland Emmerich-inspired film.

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By Glenn Kenny

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The key to what this film has in store for you lies not with the name of the director (first timer Florian Sigl) nor the screenwriters (Andrew Lowery and Jason Young, whose respective filmographies elicit a reaction between “meh” and “yikes”). Rather, consider one of its producers, Roland Emmerich. The mastermind behind a variety of elaborate blockbusters with topics running the gamut from alien invasions (you may remember 1996’s “Independence Day”) to who the hell really wrote Shakespeare’s plays (you probably don’t remember 2011’s “Anonymous”), Germany’s insufficient answer to Baz Luhrmann here applies his imprimatur to a Mozart-for-tweens exercise.

A young English fellow, Tim Walker (Jack Wolfe), gets shipped off to the fictional Mozart International School in Germany, the overall vibe of which is very Hogwarts for musos. Undercut by an imperious professor (F. Murray Abraham, hoping you remember “Amadeus,” or maybe not), distracted by a female schoolmate and ducking resident bullies, Tim nonetheless determines to earn the role of Prince Tamino in the school’s upcoming production of a Mozart opera.

One evening that very opera’s three child spirits, doing something of a Tinkerbell bit, lead Tim to a passageway that drops him in the world of “The Magic Flute” itself. Over rugged terrain, he’s chased by a giant serpent, just like in the opera, only here it’s a CGI beast, just like in a Roland Emmerich movie. In a way it’s kind of neat. In another way it’s kind of dopey.

The movie toggles between those two states throughout. But the tunes are nice, and it is novel, one could say, to hear them sung in non-operatic modes. Except in the case of the opera’s Queen of the Night, played by the acclaimed coloratura Sabine Devieilhe, who comes through with that famous high note.

The Magic Flute
Not rated. Running time: 2 hours 4 minutes. In theaters.

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