I was drawn by curiosity to this 2014 DVD as it was not shown in the cinemas here and it is about the world of game invention, something I felt I ought to know so as not to lag behind times.
The movie opens with a narrator saying that “Everyone who loves board games know that they are as numerous and diverse as life itself. They are games of chance, ingenuity, strategy.” A-ha, I thought: This should be interesting as I love board games, though it is not about the kind of games people of the younger generation are familiar with.
Based on the book by Pablo De Santio, the story is about 10-year-old Ivan Drago (David Mazouz) who loves board games; he enters a competition for board game inventors and emerges the winner after what seems like endless rounds, involving 10,000 entrants. And his prize is a company insignia, like a temporary tattoo, except that it cannot be removed once it’s stuck on his arm. He is to discover that it brings with it an untold number of mysteries.
A tragic accident involving hot air ballons make him an orphan. He is then sent to the Possum Boarding School for Boys by the Court, where he is bullied by Principal Possum (Robert Verelaque), his appointed guardian Frau Blum (Malamar Abrodos))and a group of boys who call themselves The Lofties.
Ivan longs to escape the school and succeeds with the help of a helpful, fearless girl – who lives in the walls – called Anunciacion (Megan Charpenter) by completely sinking the school. He takes a train to Zyl to look for the paternal grandfather Nicholas (Ed Asner) he has never met. He then visits Morodian (Joseph Fiennes) at the Profound Games Company. [Morodian is Nicholas’ apprentice as Ivan’s father/Nicholas’ son was not interested in games.]
From here, the movie went downhill, notwithstanding the special and visual effects. The crew working on the sets, decorations, art, props, sculptures, models, graphic design, paintings, buildings, costumes and make-up did a really magnificent job. Even the music and its orchestration contributes more than the plot of a wild adventure.
Despite some witty lines, (for eg. “The first key to victory is never give up hope“, “The second key to success is concentration“, “Life’s great decisions cannot be left to a machine; to understand the past, we must know the past“, “What use is a jigsaw puzzle with a missing piece?“, “Life is indeed a game“, “Traditional games give children such an unrealistic idea of life: equal opportunity, level playing ground, all those ridiculous myths. The truth is that those with greater means at their disposal have a greater chance of success”, “The true game of life is a bleak page“), I feel the nearly-two-hour movie could easily have shaved off 30 minutes, especially from the time Ivan arrives at Zyl.