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Movie Review

Fairytale: A True Story

Reviewed by: Brian Nigro

Better than Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
All ages
99 min.
Year of Release:

Starring: Florence Hoath, Elizabeth Earl, Paul McGann, Phoebe Nicholls, Peter O'Toole, Harvey Keitel / Director: Charles Sturridge / Released by: Paramount Pictures

The actual event behind “Fairytale” is that, in 1900’s England, two young girls (played by Florence Hoath and Elizabeth Earl) allegedly photographed live fairies. “Allegedly” is the operative word here, because there was a country-wide debate and sensationalism about the photo’s authenticity and belief in fairies in general. It attracted the attention of British novelist Arthur Conan Doyle (Peter O'Toole) as a believer, and American magician Harry Houdini (Harvey Keitel). That much is true.

Here’s how the story ends (it’s not in the movie): Years later, the two girls confess to the BBC that the whole thing was a hoax. They lied. Given how well-documented this case is—e.g., check your public library for books like “Flim Flam” and “The Spiritualists”—it’s a horribly negligent abuse of artistic license to conveniently gloss over the facts. Especially for a kid’s movie.

That said, yes, “Fairytale” is quite suitable for Christian families. There is virtually no profanity (just one utterance), violence, or adult content. It’s in good company with such contemporary classics as “The Secret Garden” and “A Little Princess”. Like those, however, “Fairytale” hastily brushes aside all Judeo-Christian connotations. Case in point: References to “angels” and “guardian angels” that are inevitably overshadowed by “fairy” talk.

The historical accuracy in “Fairytale” is impeccable. In real life, Harry Houdini really was incensed at spiritual charlatans, who he felt cheapened magic tricks; and, Conan Doyle (author of the Sherlock Holmes books) was a die-hard believer. Furthermore, there really was a Theosophic Society (and still is) that gave public lectures and distributed pamphlets.

On its own artistic merits, “Fairytale” is ultimately deceptive and manipulative. (Director Charles Sturridge is targeting two totally different audiences here with two different themes—childhood imagination and, for the adults, spiritualism.) Compared to garbage like “I Know What You Did Last Summer” and “Kiss The Girls,” though, “Fairytale” deserves a marginal recommendation. Definitely worth seeing.

Viewer Comments
I was absolutely horrified that the reviewer and so many others found this movie to be acceptable viewing for Christians. My children and I watched the video and I kept overlooking the connection between comfort for those grieving a deceased loved one and the existence of fairies. There was also a connection made between angels and fairies!

One of the things disturbing to me was the scene at the hospital where the young boy asks that the girls ask the fairies to heal him and the one girl responds with a comment that fairies can’t help—you should ask your guardian angel.

With all the new age focus on angels right now—I would have prefered her to point this boy to the only One who can heal—Jesus Christ! The other thing that disturbed me was the scene where the reporter was in the house and the “ghost” of the deceased boy came into the room and then walked right through the reporter on his way out. It absolutely sickened me!

It is given unto men once to die, and then the Judgment! I don’t think this movie should be viewed by Christians at all, much less by children.
—Joyce Shotts
The only thing that might be offensive (to the very sensitive) in the movie is when Arthur Conan Doyle says that he consulted a medium in order to contact his dead son. The way this movie was produced was wonderful.

It wasn’t hyped up or fake like some fantasy type movies. It was simple and straight-forward and made you really want to believe that there really are fairies. The fairy house the the brother built before he died was wonderful! The scenery was beautiful, too. I wish I had seen it in the theater!
—Polly Tomlinson
My husband and I took our eight-year-old daughter to see Fairytale. We all really enjoyed it. However, I was very surprised at her emotional reaction to the movie. She began crying, and then told us that she felt bad because she knew she wasn’t supposed to believe in fairies, but she wanted to. We explained to her that God has blessed us all with the ability to pretend and imagine, and that it shouldn’t make her feel guilty or bad. We also reminded her of how often the Bible mentions “Fairies”. Never.

We began a long discussion on angels and their place in Heaven and on Earth. After a few days she seemed more at peace. However, I would caution other parents, because the movie is very convincing to young minds.
I saw “Fairytale” with my fianceé. The movie was quite interesting in my opinion. People seem to be concerned with the whole fairy story, but come on. It is a movie and is certainly the mildest I have seen since “Secret Garden.” If you have raised your children right, they will understand that this is for fun. Even so, I would NOT take my children (if I had any) to see this, because they would NEVER sit still. This is an adult movie that ran very slow in the middle (I doze-jerked a little). Overall, I give it a 7. I especially liked the “secret” camio at the end… nice touch!
There really IS a Theosophical Society, right in Wheaton, Illinois. The Theosophical Society is pagan and satanic to the core, and makes no bones about it. Their bookstore and headquarters still sell books and distribute pamphlets.
After seeing the movie, I asked my son if he believed in fairies now to which he said with 8 year old definity “No!”. He asked me the same question and I said that I did not believe in fairies but, if the story was true, I was closer to believing than I was before I saw the movie. “Fairytales” was an entertaining movie that whose story was so far-fetched that the normal person with a marginal touch on reality would have no problem discerning the historical facts from the fictional claim of the existence of fairies. I am greatful to Spotlight for telling “the rest of the story”; that the pictures were proven a hoax. Thanks for a great Web site.
—-L. Clark