Eppler: 'Artemis Fowl' a non-starter for a new series

"Artemis Fowl," about a young boy who discovers a magical world, feels like Disney's attempt to launch another "Harry Potter"-style series of movies.That would be fine since the new "Potter" prequels have been varying levels of not good. But after this first movie, I highly doubt we'll see another. Although I haven't read Eoin Colfer's YA novels, they're at least working with a cool concept with Artemis Fowl being a prickly evil boy genius. But because this is a Disney movie, even though the kid insists he's a criminal mastermind, he really has no rough edges. He's just a mildly relatable, lonely kid with daddy issues instead of, say, a young Jordan Belfort.

Artemis, played by newcomer Ferdia Shaw with all the charisma of a jar of mayonnaise, has to rescue his father who's kept secrets from him about a world of fairies.Judie Dench is fun to watch as a fairy commander, and Josh Gad is trying to Hagrid so hard as a giant dwarf that he should probably catch a lawsuit from J.K. Rowling.In fact, Gad's character has an ability to burrow holes by stuffing his mouth full as he can with dirt and spraying it out his butt. I only mention it because the movie kind of works the same way by trying to pack in way too much and leaving us with a mess. The first movie in a series like this has a lot of heavy lifting to do by introducing us to characters, building a magical world and presenting conflict. But this movie is both over-stuffed and underwritten in trying to pack a lot in without making us care about any of it in a fast 90 minutes. For a movie that reportedly cost $125 million, the special effects look cheap.

This is a rare miss for director Kenneth Branagh, who has proven to have an eye for world-buidling and myth-making in "Thor," "Cinderella," and many Shakespeare adaptations. But "Artemis Fowl" is pretty bland. But my six-year-old son enjoyed it, and an hour-and-a-half of peace and quiet at home is at least worth something.

Streaming on Disney-plus



* * * * * Incredible - One of the best of the year* * * * Excellent - Touches greatness with only minor quibbles* * * Good - Plenty to like, definitely worth seeing* * Mediocre - You can do better