Directed by Adam Gunn
Written by Tess Meyer, Gerhard Hahn & Fin Edquist
Mia lives a divided life: twelve years old and coming to the unpleasant terms surrounding the death of her parents. She lives with her grandfather, both of whom struggle immensely with the loss, and despite their valiant efforts to be there for one another, find that the grief they share runs deep. In this real-world Mia inherits a gift from her late mother – a bracelet paired with a mysterious fable book. Combined, the pair of items enable Mia to cross into a fantastical land of lurid colour; Centopia. Here the feature film, an evolution from the German television series, takes on its animated form as Mia assumes a more elfish form, and embarks on the grandest adventure of her life.
This double life doesn’t come without fear, as on the one hand, while within the world of Centopia, Mia must endeavour to save this world of fantasy and magic from Toxor, a deadly Toad with a grudge for the more picturesque beasts of the realm. Meanwhile, her grandfather notices Mia’s absence and struggles with the worries that he has lost another member of the family.
Adam Gunn’s direction doesn’t make much in the way of allowance for those unfamiliar with the original ten-year series – and though not paramount, a portion of previous knowledge seems to offer a steadier footing early into the film. But once orientated to the world surrounding Mia, if audiences allow themselves to become lost in the imagery, The Hero of Centopia merges some tight animation with a rich palette of colour (save for minor clipping issues in the more action-oriented scenes).
This action comes with a pacing many may not be expecting, but the world-saving endeavour of Mia comes with a much tighter conjunction of heroics which audiences can enjoy. It makes for a fast, occasionally too fast, pacing for younger audiences – which merits the film’s more pre-teen focus. The action never comes over as over-indulgent, Gerhard Hahn (the original series writer) and Tess Meyer’s writing maintains a steady presence of whimsical side-characters to reinforce the film’s (predictable) merit that friendship holds the key to defeating our antagonist, Toxor.
Returning from the series and previous films, Margot Nuccetelli returns for the titular Mia and the live-action portions of the film’s opening and closer. Nuccetelli has captured the character enough to maintain a presence throughout, producing a more natural voice performance than some of the newer cast members. And to describe the live-action sequences as, a touch contrite, would be an understatement. They have a place as exposition filler for new audiences but feel wasted as mere bookends rather than stitched throughout ala Time Bandits or Cool World.
Pleasant, with vibrancy in colour and design, there’s a clear market for Mia and Me: The Hero of Centopia, but the producers seem to disagree on which market to aim for. Fans of the show have grown since the original series, and the film tends to cater to a new audience but is still constructed on the grounds of familiarity. Neither true stand-alone nor reboot, Gunn’s film struggles to find a firm footing, but revels in the colour it throws around the screen.
Rich in Colour
Mia and Me: The Hero of Centopia is released in UK cinemas from October 21st.