Amazingly odd…and perhaps not a film that younger kids would enjoy.
by Martin Hafer
Originally, Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart (AKA The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart) was a French-language film. However, a recent English dub has been completed and so the film is available to a much wider audience. The problem is that STILL the film is only for select people–as I doubt if most younger children would enjoy it. And, the same might be said for their parents as well.
This movie is set in some sort of odd world that looks a bit 19th century, a bit goth-like and a bit weird. The world truly is unique and the story has another-worldliness that sets it apart from so many other CGI films. So, even though some real world folks appear in it, such as Jack the Ripper and Georges Méliès*, it is definitely NOT our world!
It all begins on the coldest day ever on the face of the Earth. A pregnant woman stumbles into the home of a midwife and gives birth. But, because it was so cold, the child’s heart is frozen and, in a weird bit of surgery, the midwife shoves a cuckoo clock into the baby’s chest. That night, the mother leaves–abandoning the boy to be raised by the midwife.
Suddenly, the film skips ahead 10 years. The boy is lonely as his foster mother has sheltered him from the world–perhaps out of some misguided desire to shelter him because of his heart. This is because he has three rules he MUST obey: he cannot touch the hands of the clock, he must hold his temper AND he must never fall in love–as his heart cannot stand it. Of course, once the boy is allowed out of the house, this is exactly what happens–leading to the boy going on a cross-country adventure to pursue his love. This is a bit odd, as the kid is only 10…but whatever.
This adventure leads him to Mr. Méliès as well as to a super-strange assortment of sideshow freaks which are MUCH freakier than any you’ve seen. There, with the show, is the girl he fell for–though considering she really never noticed him, it’s not surprising that she doesn’t recognize him. What’s next? Well, you can see that for yourself.
As I mentioned above, this film probably has a very small audience. The characters and story would go over the head of younger kids, as would the songs. I tried showing this to some adults, but they lost interest as well. So who is left? Perhaps goth kids will like it. Perhaps older kids and teens. But, if you are looking for some cute family film with lots of cute songs and characters, keep looking. While I think Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart is a wonderful film when it comes to its world-building, unusual characters and very unusual CGI, I am stumped and have no idea if others will like it or not. As for me, it was mildly interesting but I lost interest after a while. Perhaps it might have been better as a short film.
*The French film pioneer, Georges Méliès, was also recently in the film Hugo.