1995’s “Magic Island” from Moonbeam Entertainment is one of the few Charles Band backed kids films I’ve never actually seen. Which is odd, considering I loved Full Moon as a kid, and Zachary Ty Bryan was on one of my favorite TV show of the nineties “Home Improvement.” Like many of the Moonbeam films, “Magic Island” is not a perfect film by any stretch, but you have to appreciate its ambition, flaws and all. A good mixture of “The Neverending Story” and “The Princess Bride,” Sam Irvin’s adventure film is a goofy kids film with enough innocence to warrant good B grade family fare.
Jack is a latch key child who spends his days playing games and starving for the attention of his mother. She’s a divorcee who is trying to win a big promotion to help support the family, but Jack only wants to spend time with her. The night they’re going out for family time, she is forced to leave and reschedule once more, leaving Jack with his kindly nanny Lucretia (the always great Ja’net DuBois) who tends to the sad boy. When he attempts to run away, she convinces him to read an ancient book that had been passed down by her family. Dismissing any chance of reading it (it was the nineties; reading is so not extreme!) and hiding in his room for the night the book takes life.
Soon enough he’s sucked in to generic pirate island where he’s smack dab in the middle of a treasure hunt between a trio of heroic pirates, and the evil Blackbeard (Andrew Divoff) and his cronies. Jack soon finds that the island is more magical than he realizes, and takes to becoming an unlikely hero. Especially when he meets a cute heroic mermaid who helps Jack find his way home. “Magic Island” was often confused for a Disney movie back in the nineties, and for good reason. The production qualities are up to par with most Disney films of the nineties, and Zachary Ty Bryan had a lot of celebrity clout to garner attention. Most of “Magic Island” is pure generic fluff.
Jack Carlisle is even generic and bland enough to where we can empathize just enough for him, but is never too complex. He’s a nineties kid through and through who wants a family, and finds heroism through the magic of reading! I’d be tougher on “Magic Island,” but it’s a lot of fun and garners some solid direction from Irvin. Not to mention, it’s tough to hate a movie that influences viewers to pick up a book and read. “Magic Island” has enough fantasy and adventure tropes to really entertain, and channels a lot of the old Harryhausen films, with traditional special effects that look charmingly dated. I had a good time with it, all things considered, and it’s tough to hate anything with Andrew Divoff.