The year before TOY STORY/’95 renounced animation’s mission reduction to babysitter and jump-started its return to form, the rear-guard guys tried to cash in on the fast-fleeting popularity of HOME ALONE star Macaulay Culkin with this dreadful piece of cartoony ‘family-friendly’ uplift.* (Too late!, Culkin retired for a decade after his wan ‘94 film crop.) In the live-action bookends, Culkin plays a nerdy scaredy-cat who stumbles into Christopher Lloyd’s magical library. (HARRY POTTER fans who feared what that film franchise might have looked like without real Brits can get an idea of the horror happily avoided by watching these two ham it up, with Culkin in Potterish eye-wear & Lloyd in wizard wardrobe.) Before our lad can find his way out, the library books come alive, the pic switches to animation, and we’re off on a big find-your-way-home adventure, with cameo appearances from varied childhood classics at every plot reversal. Lame doings at best. No one brings anything fresh to the party, but Whoppi Goldberg is a particular disgrace as ‘Fantasy,’ one of the three chattering tomes who serve as comic sidekicks. They help Culkin discover that both books & boys need spines . . . or need to find an EXIT . . . or need only pay half price at matinees. Well, the kid learns something! Which is more than you or your kids will get out of this.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY/DOUBLE-BILL: *Family-Friendly, that’s code for any harmless film stuffed with phony wonderment that will bore parents & kids equally . . . and count on no one mentioning it to the other party. Martin Scorsese’s HUGO/’11 was a super classy/expensive/floppo example of the form.