Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Fun overall
Cons: Gets too frantic half way through
The Bottom Line:
Very fun concept
One twist should have come later
Kids will still enjoy
Mostly Fun, but too Frantic
I confess. I haven’t kept up with Chris Grabenstein’s middle grade novels, but I did read his book Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library a couple of years back. When I saw that Nickelodeon was going to make it into a movie, I immediately wanted to watch it. While I think kids will likely really enjoy the results, I found it a little flat.
As the movie opens, we meet Kyle (Casey Simpson), one of the many kids in town who are addicted to the scavenger hunt games that Mr. Lemoncello (Russell Roberts) creates. In fact, he might be a little too addicted. When he learns that Mr. Lemoncello is going to let 12 lucky twelve-year-olds into his new library overnight to play games, he knows he has to be included.
Sure enough, Kyle is selected, and he and his fellow contestants find themselves in a race to solve puzzles to figure out how to escape from the library. Can they do it? Or will things get out of hand first?
The twelve kids begin to be eliminated fairly quickly, so we don’t have to keep track of all of them for the entire movie, fortunately. The core kids do fall into types instead of real characters, but this is an adult looking at the movie. As a kid, I wouldn’t have minded in the slightest, and they didn’t have time to do more in the 68 minute flick.
In many ways, this movie comes across as a book themed version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Instead of chocolate, we’ve got great themed rooms that are filled with adventures and puzzles for the kids to solve. We don’t get enough information to solve most of the puzzles ourselves, but there isn’t time. The characters solve them that quickly. And it is a pleasure to see references to stories I love pop up.
And yet, about half way through, we get something that happens that changes everything. I get that it is supposed to up the tension and stakes for the characters. However, it leaves the rest of the movie feeling frantic. If it had happened closer to the end of the film, I think I would have appreciated it more.
The acting is good. This isn’t going to win any awards, but it works for this movie and the universe they are trying to create. Likewise, the special effects are great and add to the fun of the movie.
I suspect that my complaints with the film are because I’m not the target age. Kids will definitely enjoy spending time watching Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library.