Fairy Tale: A True Story

Fairy Tale: A True Story

In Fairy Tale: A True Story, two young English cousins receive a great amount of attention during World War I for creating snapshots supposedly showing them with fairies, convincing none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of their authenticity. The "true story" upon which the film is based was obviously a hoax, and Doyle off his rocker. Nonetheless, the film takes it seriously, even though the "fairy" concept seems musty and dated. (If this took place in the 1980s, the children would have probably seen Micronauts). Since Fairy Tale is a children's film, to deny the existence of little insect-winged humanoids—or even worse, to present an ambiguous case that neither supports nor rejects it, and permits the child viewer to make up his or her mind—would pose a threat to the time-tested family-film mantras that anything is possible, and that the power of a child's imagination yields mighty things, blah blah blah blah. Or, more succinctly, to not believe in fairies makes you a soulless, killjoy grownup, which is very, very bad. As Doyle and Harry Houdini, Peter O'Toole and Harvey Keitel, respectively, faintly symbolize the believer-versus-skeptic dynamic, and a few scenes hinting at duplicity on the girls' part are snuck in. But it's all made pointless by the ensuing fairy-barrage that is the movie's climax and meal ticket. The production itself is lovely, and the half-live-action, half-computer-animated pixies themselves are often entrancing—although their realism is a bit creepy, and you half-expect them at any second to be slammed between the pages of a thick book or incinerated by a 1917 proto-bug zapper. But in the end, Fairy Tale amounts to a queasy mix of historical fact and speculation that raises the question of why the filmmakers bothered to portray a true incident in the first place if their real intent was fantasy.

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