UK Release Date: 27th August 2018
Runtime: 93 minutes
Director: Miranda Harcourt, Stuart McKenzie
Writer: Stuart McKenzie
Starring: Erana James, Nicholas Galitzine, Timothy Spall, Melanie Lynskey, Benji Purchase, Lucy Lawless, Thomasin McKenzie
Synopsis: When a life-draining spirit ensnares her younger brother, a teenage girl must embrace her own hidden supernatural powers in order to save him from the villain’s clutches.
A few weeks ago, YA sci-fi The Darkest Minds wandered quietly into cinemas and then wandered equally quietly out of the back door without anyone really realising it was ever there. Meanwhile, Kiwi YA adaptation The Changeover has made its own rather discreet arrival on DVD. It’s a fantasy romance in the Twilight vein based on a novel that won the Carnegie Medal in the 1980s, when the aforementioned vampire tale and its YA bedfellows were little more than twinkles in their authors’ eyes.
Our standard ‘chosen one’ protagonist is teen Laura (Erana James), who has premonitions that something awful is going to happen to her younger brother Jacko (Benji Purchase). The pair meet the sinister Carmody Braque (Timothy Spall) on their way home one day and he puts a stamp on Jacko’s hand, which is resilient to being washed away. Soon, Jacko begins to feel ill and weak, while Braque appears to grow younger each day. Laura is warned by schoolmate Sorensen (Nicholas Galitzine) that there’s something dark and supernatural going on, but she might be able to fix it.
The problem with The Changeover is that its central emotional story, whether focusing on its romantic relationship or its sibling connection, consistently plays second fiddle to dense fantasy mythology. At least half of the minutes in this rather brief adventure are taken by exposition and grappling with an arcane series of rules and regulations dictating how the numerous supernatural figures in the story are able to act. Spall and Galitzine, in particular, are handed pages and pages of explanation that still never manages to unmuddy the murky waters of the storytelling.
It’s Spall – taking on the stock ‘respected adult thespian’ role we expect in a YA movie – who comes out worst from this enterprise, entirely lacking the sneering villainy at which he has proved so adept in Sweeney Todd and the Harry Potter movies. Galitzine, meanwhile, looks permanently sadder than Edward Cullen out in a storm with a broken umbrella. Thankfully, James is fairly decent in the lead role and brings a sizeable amount of charm to proceedings.
Even she can’t help, though, when the narrative of The Changeover dives headlong into a nonsensical third act that is every bit as maddening as the world of the Further in the Insidious franchise. Nothing that happens in this strange dream world makes any sense and the story tangles and fractures as it tries to explain the machinations of what is happening. It’s a prime example of an idea that works far more elegantly on the page than it does on the big screen. I certainly hope so because, in movie form, The Changeover is a car crash.
Nothing on the disc I had for review.
Pop or Poop?
The time for dark, YA fantasy romance on the big screen has definitely passed, so it leaves The Changeover looking like a desperate relic as well as a bad movie. Directed by a husband and wife duo, this is a film that has no idea how to untangle the book’s mythology in movie form and, as a result, gives absolutely nothing to its talented cast.
The Changeover is available on DVD in the UK now, courtesy of Lionsgate.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.