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Animated ‘Village’ Could Use Some Magic

FOR THE TIMES

There aren’t many animated movies made for so specific an ethnic audience as French filmmaker Albert Hanan Kaminski’s “Aaron’s Magic Village,” and for his stick-to-it-iveness alone, he deserves credit. But even that audience, young Jewish children, may find this a drab piece of business.

“Aaron’s Magic Village” is loosely adapted from Isaac Bashevis Singer’s “Stories for Children,” which also provided the inspiration for Singer’s play “Schlemiel the First.” It’s set in Singer’s oft-visited Chelm, a fictional Polish village of fools, where a 10-year-old orphan named Aaron has come with his devoted goat Zlateh to live with Uncle Schlemiel and Aunt Sarah.

Trouble’s brewing in Chelm as Aaron arrives. A sorcerer has created the Golem, a monster made of clay and water, and he needs only the secret words contained in the village’s Book of Marvels to bring him alive and send him on a rampage. Since Chelm’s elders have entrusted the safekeeping of the Book of Marvels to Schlemiel, the original village idiot, the task is a cinch, and the Golem is soon feeling the earth move under his feet.

Only Aaron, being an out-of-towner, has the brains to attempt to retrieve the Book of Marvels from the sorcerer, deactivate the Golem, and save Chelm and the world. And with Zlateh and a brain-addled imp named Lantuch, he sets off for the sorcerer’s castle.

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The animation is just serviceable, well below the quality of Disney and well above that of Saturday morning TV. But actors Tovah Feldshuh, Fyvush Finkel, Tommy Michaels and Ronn Carroll give uninspired voice performances, and the songs--music by Michel Legrand, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick--are surprisingly flat.

* MPAA rating: G. Times guidelines: fine for any age.

‘Aaron’s Magic Village’

Fyvush Finkel: narrator

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Tommy Michaels: Aaron

Tovah Feldshuh: Aunt Sarah, Zlateh the Goat and the Matchmaker

Ronn Carroll: Uncle Schlemiel

Harry Goz: Gronam Ox

Directed by Albert Hanan Kaminski. Written by Kaminski and Jacqueline Galia Benousilio, adapted from stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer. Music by Michel Legrand and Sheldon Harnick. Produced by Dora Benousilio and Peter Volkle. Released by Avalanche Releasing, a division of Cinepix Film Properties. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.

*

* Exclusively at the Beverly Center Cineplex, La Cienega at Beverly Boulevard, (310) 652-7760; Westside Pavilion, 10800 W. Pico Blvd., (310) 475-0202; Fallbrook 10, 6731 Fallbrook Ave., West Hills, (818) 347-6091; and Woodbridge Cinema, 4626 Barranca Parkway, Irvine, (714) 551-0655.


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