Throwback Thursday Review: “The Pagemaster” Tried To Get Kids To Enjoy Literature (1994)



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Posted April 7, 2016 by

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Richard Tyler (Culkin) is a young boy who is literally scared of everything. When his dad (Begley Jr) tries to get him into sports, he spouts off statistics about how shin splints cause blood clots. When he builds him a treehouse, Richard tells him the percentage of accidents that happen from heights. When his father sends him on an errand to the hardware store, a terrible storm forces Richard into a library where he gets a concussion that transports him into an animated world inhabited by some of literature’s most prominent figures. In order to return to the life he knows, Richard — along with three book friends (horror, fantasy, and adventure) — must overcome the likes of Moby Dick, Long John Silver, Mr. Hyde, and a fire-breathing dragon.


Not only is “The Pagemaster” the story of a young boy finding the courage to live his life to the fullest, it’s also an encouragement to get kids to enjoy literature. Throughout the film it’s as if the creators are saying, “See? Reading can be fun! It transports you into a world of fantastic adventures.” Unfortunately a movie like this wouldn’t be made today as most of the kids watching wouldn’t know who any of the characters are. You’d have to replace Dr. Jekyll with Dora the Explorer; Captain Ahab with Elsa from Frozen. It’s commendable that Kirschner and Casci tried to make reading seem exciting but it’s also terribly disappointing that we won’t see a movie like ‘The Pagemaster’ ever again.

The film is so much fun to watch, and James Horner’s soundtrack makes every little scene seem like a grand adventure. When I was a kid, I loved this movie. Now that I’m an adult, I respect the hell out of it.

While there was multiple uplifting messages being delivered by the film, there’s also the depressing backstory of Richard not having his father’s approval. At the beginning of the film, when a thunder storm scares Richard into fleeing his room and running to his parents’ bedroom door to most likely ask to sleep in their room for the night, he hears his father complaining about how much of a wuss he is; how he wants his son to be a man but unfortunately he got this weak boy. Even when Richard is animated and fighting off pirates he still can’t help but wish his father was their to witness his heroic actions. At the end of the film, when Richard is found by his parents sleeping peacefully in the treehouse that he was afraid of, his father kisses him on the head and tells him he loves him. Poor Richard: he wasn’t able to hear the words because he was too busy sleeping his life away.




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