Winx Club: The Secret of the Lost Kingdom

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ROME -- Billing itself as "The Italian Disney," Iginio Straffi's production house Rainbow has conquered a large chunk of the world with the television series "Winx Club."

Conceived, co-written and directed by Straffi, the show is a hit with young girls and apparently their parents, nevermind the fact that the Winx's scantily clad, ergonomically incorrect bodies make Barbie look as frumpy as Aunt Bea.

Now Straffi has made his first feature film. "Winx Club: The Secret of the Lost Kingdom" continues where the third television season left off. No doubt it will work best with those who already are followers of the TV show.

In Italy, the film opened strong, clocking up nearly €2 million its first weekend. So far, it has sold to almost 46 territories. The film should do well in the markets in which the show and Winx merchandising are popular, such as Europe and North America. The international rollout is set for the beginning of 2008, giving the animation team an extra month to rework glitches in the Italian version.

"Fashion fairies," best friends and defenders of the universe, Bloom, Flora, Stella, Aisha (Layla in some countries other than Italy), Musa and Tecna graduate from the Alfea magic school. They must now return to their planets of origin -- except for Bloom, who just discovered she is the princess of the lost kingdom of Domino. But Domino was turned into rock (along with its inhabitants, including Bloom's parents) by Baltor and his three witches, the Winx's arch-nemeses.

So Bloom returns to Earth, to the adopted parents who raised her and a routine existence in which her highly developed skills for saving the universe are not needed. To make matters worse, her boyfriend Sky is harboring a secret and for weeks does not answer his cell phone.

Eventually, Bloom's yearning to meet her biological parents, from whom she was separated as a baby, will help her overcome her fears of "the dark side." And the gang will band together (with their boyfriends, all sporting fashion dos and special powers that are not as potent as the girls') to battle the witches, in the hopes of freeing Domino from its almost 20-year spell.

The themes of the search for home/identity amid rites of passage are here treated with a surprising lack of originality. The bar has been set high by the likes of Pixar and DreamWorks, as well as the world-class animation coming out of Asia and Africa.

The fairies are a disturbing mix of sexiness and sexlessness, the CGI animation rather straightforward and at 90 minutes the story should wear out older viewers' patience. The continuous harping on good having to win out over evil seems less a message than a slogan in lieu of story development.

The stereotypical teenagers' endless chatter about their joys, sadness and fears -- not to mention clothes -- is punctuated by action/battle scenes that ultimately lack suspense. You don't have to know the Winx Club world to quickly gather that none of its perfectly pretty boys and girls could experience anything other than a happy ending. Nevertheless, there's plenty of colorful eye candy to look at along the way, mostly the fairies' outfits and hairstyles, for which they are known and loved.

Straffi may also strike gold with the soundtrack, especially the very catchy and sellable "All the Magic" by Natalie Imbruglia. Written specifically for the film, the producers are hoping the song will be a chart-topper.

WINX CLUB: THE SECRET OF THE LOST KINGDOM
Rainbow, RAI Fiction
Credits:
Director/producer: Iginio Straffi
Screenwriters: Iginio Straffi, Sean Molyneaux
Executive producer: Joanne Lee
Production designer: Gianni Travaglione
Music: Paolo Baglio, Giovanni Cera, Angelo Poggi
Editors: Valentina D'orsi, Jean Luc Massicci, Daniele Pintene, Mauro Uzzeo
Cast:
Narrator/Bartleby: Gabriele Lavia
Bloom/Tune: Letizia Ciampa
Stella/Chatta/Zing: Perla Liberatori
Tecna/Livy: Domitilla D'Amico
Flora/Amore: Ilaria Latin
Musa/Digit: Gemma Donati
Aisha/Lockette: Laura Lenghi
Faragonda: Emanuela Rossi
Running time: 92 minutes
No MPAA rating
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