Movies can be either art, or entertainment, yet from the best of both we should expect to learn a little about our lives. For this movie, though, I've mainly been left with questions: What's up with the false advertising? And why do I continue to watch super-cheap young adult fantasy movies? I guess I'll always want to recapture the magical mystery of the real, original Dragonslayer, though I think I'm doomed to failure, as with this Dove Family approved movie, which might actually please non-discriminating seven-year-olds, but which has very little in the way of dragon adventure.
Arthur, (Hunter Allan) Shane (Eric Lutes) and Natalie (Abigail Victor) are pre-teen middle school kids obsessed with a 'Magic' style card game called 'Elixir Quest.' Crawling around in the sewers, wearing plastic armor, they face two challenges; avoiding bullies, and figuring out why there's a blue troll chained up underground. Complicating matters is a feud between Arthur's single mom (Lea Thompson) and mysterious Vice Principal Metz (Wendie Malick). At least now I remember another reason for picking up this movie, and her name is lovely Lea Thompson.
Director Andrew Lauer and screenwriter Jamie Nash employ a tried and true opener, throwing us right into some dragon-fire-spraying action before Arthur's narration informs us that he's getting ahead of himself, at which point we begin at the beginning. Though a somewhat tired motif, this opener works well - promising action and investing our interest in a potentially slow start. It's needed, since Adventures' pleasures play hide-and-seek with sit-com timing, some fairly odd and of course juvenile attempts at humor, and an atmosphere that more closely resembles The Magic Schoolbus than The Lord of the Rings. When we hope for a little hardcore mysticism or swashbuckling, we instead get eager-to-learn kids ruefully whining that they should have stayed home in bed.
And yet, innocent kids into fantastic chapter books will likely be quite entertained, while parents can enjoy a few grace notes, such as Richard Sellers' enthusiastic, quizzical performance as Bart the Troll, or Malick's gleeful sit-com turn as the evil Vice Principal. Even Lea Thompson is solid in her own way, while Bart's hip-hop dance showcase will strike you as either really stupid, or really funny - possibly both. In fact, the friends' relationship with Bart would likely make a fine movie on its own, but we were promised teenage dragonslaying (or 12-year-old dragonslaying, anyway). However, the somewhat substandard dragon doesn't really make an appearance until the film's final 15 minutes, enjoying only a few minutes screentime, while denying us much of the dragon adventure we crave.
Adventures of a Teenage Dragonslayer stints on the dragonslaying - and the kids aren't even actual teens, but whatever. However, this Dove Family approved movie, despite featuring godless magic potions and such, should satisfy kids still in single digits, who have a yen for fantasy adventure. Parents won't be too turned off by the low budget and adolescent attitude, all of which means this could be a good, safe, family-night rental.