Mia and Me: The Hero of Centopia review – kids TV show upscaled for big screen

The garish German TV spin-off combines live action and animation, but its babyish tone sets the bar too low for its preteen audience

Based on a German children’s TV series, this feature-length spin-off dutifully trots out the fantasy tropes – quest narrative, chosen-one hero, multicoloured unicorns aplenty – but doesn’t really pluck anything compelling out of this otherworldly brew. Its Narnian land of Centopia, accessed by protagonist Mia (Margot Nuccetelli) through a magical book and bracelet gifted to her by her deceased mum, is depicted in garish and ornate animation by director Adam Gunn. But its vacant-eyed elf inhabitants sum up the general lack of personality.

Chilling out with her grandad (David Willetts) at his lakeside pad, Mia is summoned to Centopia just as megalomaniac toad Toxor (voiced by Paul Davies) is menacing the realm once again. Spewing forth malignant smoke that transforms the local elves into subservient “groundlings”, he has designs on painting the pastel-coloured paradise in shades of Mordor (can you blame him?). Mia crash-lands on an airship piloted by bequiffed elf prince Iko (voiced by Alex Beauman), who is fleeing the destruction of his Lotus Island, and learns that only three magic jewels can see off the arrogant amphibian.

The combination of live action and animation is reminiscent of retro efforts such as Roger Rabbit and Cool World. But the live-action segments are restricted to merely bookending the film with Mia and her grandpa, passing up an opportunity for comment on the interplay between reality and fantasy that even the preteen target audience might grasp on some level. Sadly, Gunn aims low with a rather babyish tone, and sententious tendencies that sound like offcuts from therapy sessions: “Friendship is a risk, Toxor!” The Walking on Sunshine singalong will have you wishing for another blast of toxic breath.

• Mia and Me: The Hero of Centopia is released in UK cinemas on 21 October.


Phil Hoad

The GuardianTramp

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