To wake at dawn with a winged heart
To come home in the evening with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart
And a song of praise on your lips.
The very high concept behind this animated film is a great one. The film features several interludes where sections of Khalil Gibran’s writing in his iconic book The Prophet are either set to music or recited by Liam Neeson (perfect choice). Each of these sections is directed by a different animator, so the sections come in radically different styles. It’s a downright gorgeous movie and those sections were made to be seen, as I did, on the big screen. It’s not going too far to call some of these sections breathtaking. On Children is a gloriously creative riff on pottery painting and the images, particularly that of a bow and arrow representing a mother and a child, really lend some power to the poem (which is itself one of Gibran’s best work). There’s a loose-limbed, water-colory section set to Neeson’s recitation of a poem about death. And the love poem, set to a new song by Glen Hansard and Lisa Hannigan, is nothing short of astonishing. I really can’t overemphasize just how gorgeous and transporting these sections of the film are.
Unfortunately, the film also features a labored, often annoying story in which Neeson plays Mustafa, the poet/prophet of the title. He’s been imprisoned by the government but his chance to leave and return home is about to come as the film starts. It features an impressive cast: Neeson, Salma Hayek (also a producer on the film), Alfred Molina, Quvenzhane Wallis, Frank Langella and John Krasinski. But I don’t really care if John Krasinki’s bumbling police officer and Salma Hayek’s beautiful housekeeper fall in love or not, you know. And these framing sequences seem aimed at children in a really obnoxious way, filled with slapstick humor and overdone jokiness. At times, I was almost infuriated by these scenes. The breathtaking, genuinely transporting, beautiful meditation on love has just ended, the gorgeous words, music and visuals having cast an absolute spell on me . . . and not a full minute later, there’s a “hilarious” gag involving a bird pooping on someone. I mean, **** you too. These scenes are at best tiresome, at worst stupid and annoying and they definitely detract from the real artistry of the poetry sections. Like I said, I loved seeing the poetry sections on the big screen, but for the best full experience, I guess this one is a blu-ray pick; take it home and skip all the story scenes. It’s a hard one to rate, certainly. The poem sections are worth nothing less than four stars, but the story elements (which take up most of the running time) are 1 star, speaking generously. Anyway, 2 ½ stars.
tl;dr – breathtaking scenes revolving around Khalil Gibran’s poetry are severely undercut by an annoying, clichéd and tiresome framing narrative. 2 ½ stars.