Movie Review: “Master Moley by Royal Invitation,” Starring Warwick Davis
SPOILERS AHEAD: PROCEED WITH CAUTION
Master Moley by Royal Invitation is a perfectly charming tale, and Warwick Davis, essentially playing the anti-Griphook, is perfect for the lead. His voice acting sounds like it was built for this title character. Julie Walters plays the mother of the family, Mrs. Moley, and the voice of the Queen. And we all know how terrific she is at playing the strong matriarch of any family, whether it’s royal or subject. The story stars an endearing mole named Moley who goes from zero to hero after attempting to impress his crush Mona Lisa, played by the perfectly voiced Gemma Arterton. Moley opens a mystical book called The Manual, which essentially becomes a fairy godmother and helps him get the girl and save his home, called the Big Below. In between those events, he interacts with an attacking corgi, steals a red rose, dresses in black tails, and saves the queen.
Moley has a habit of taking the easy road to solving problems and digging himself into an even deeper mess, but with the help of his trusty pals Dotty, MishMosh and Mona Lisa, our pal Moley always finds his way and makes the mole world a little bit better.
The 30-minute film, which debuted on November 28, acts as a bit of an introduction to a new series called Master Moley, which will begin airing on Boomerang in January 2021. All in all, there are 52 episodes at 11 minutes each, and they’re geared toward children 12 and under. James Reatchlous, the creator of Moley, originally told the stories to his daughters at bedtime. Once they fell asleep, he would write each one down in a journal, ending up with over 250 stories. Sometime later, Reatchlous was diagnosed with cancer, and one day, his daughters surprised him in the hospital with all the journals filled with his Moley stories. As he started reading them, it reminded him of happier times, and he credits Moley with raising his spirits.
The film does a great job of “show, don’t tell” when it comes to the details of the story. The small details are not overt, and they are quick to disappear, but they work extremely well within the context of the film. They show how Moley lacks a little discipline and is a bit short in the aspirational department. They also show how he has a huge heart for his fellow moles. These are all accomplished in quick, snapshot moments. The animation is superb, from the tiny tufts of individual hair to the movements of all the animals, including a corgi named Buttercup. A great blink-and-you-miss-it detail is the AA battery powering the back of Moley’s car. There are plenty of Easter eggs to be found in the small details of the city where Moley lives when we look overhead. The plot is extremely high paced, which is exactly what the movie needs.
Easily the best part of the film is the musical sequence in a castle. In it, Moley channels his inner ’70s Vegas lounge singer and does it fantastically. It’s filled with back-up singers, a chorus line, and acrobatics. He seemed to have even donned his top hat specifically for that performance instead of it just matching his tuxedo. The entire film is worth your time for that scene alone.
Another absolute gem of a scene is a clever twist on King Arthur and Excalibur. This is where Moley’s luck turns around since several attempts by other moles try and fail to gain the power of the mystical book. Moley succeeds by simply showing up and being unassuming about the entire situation and the book. It is a great scene that encapsulates the words of Dumbledore: “… perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well” (DH 718). It’s as if Dumbledore had written the entire scene himself to fully explain what the iconic quote meant. Moley didn’t even attempt to try to get the book to begin with but wins it with his humble nature.
I could not recommend Master Moley by Royal Invitation highly enough. It is high paced and has a great message for children of all ages: Be kind to everyone whether you are a mole or not.