Our rating: 4 out of 5
reviewed by: Stephanie Vale
Awkward. Innocent. Gullible. Dreamer. Although Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tales are some of the most popular children's stories of all time, most people know little to nothing about the man himself. This enchanting (yet somehow a bit odd), 3-hour made-for-TV series from Hallmark Entertainment, sets about to remedy this.
An imaginative story-teller from a poor Danish home, Hans (Kieran Bew) sets off for Copenhagen leaving his childhood home behind, in order to fulfill a fortune teller's prediction that "someday all of Copenhagen will be lit up in his honor." Getting away from a somewhat abusive mother (who slaves away at the local mental institute), and the memories of his father's recent passing, Hans begins the journey of a lifetime. Though almost child-like in speech and manner, something about the impulsive Hans seems to draw people to him wherever he goes. Jette (pronounced "Yetta," played by Emily Hamilton), a lovely young woman who is crippled, meets Hans at the local opera house, taking a liking to him from the very start. She convinces her father and brother to let Hans join them in their opera box that evening, where Hans shows his un-accustomedness to the plush surroundings and moving opera music by sniffling and sobbing.
When Jette's father decides to "take in" Hans and send him to a boy's school where he can learn everything a young gentleman should know, Yetta's brother Edward becomes a tad bit jealous. One of Han's great desires is that Edward should be like a brother to him (as he has none of his own). Jette and Hans, on the other hand, become very close over the next couple of years, as Jette is at first, the only person who believes in and encourages Hans to follow his dreams. Although Hans loves Jette as a sister, it is Jenny Lynd (Flora Montgomery), a beautiful opera singer who once helped him that he has given his heart to. Socially inept in every way, Hans nonetheless weaves a magical spell over those who are near him, including the crown princess of Denmark who gives him her signet ring and tells him to find someone special to give it to. Hans immediately sets off to find Jenny, wanting to give her the ring and proclaim his love. He comes upon her while she is rehearsing, and she is a bit unnerved by his sudden appearance and enthusiasm.
Hans leads her away from the theatre (albeit a tad reluctantly), gives her
the ring, and tells her the story of a beautiful Nightengale who sings so
beautifully that the emperor of China wants the song for himself. Hans is so
descriptive in his story that Jenny begins to see it for herself and take
part in his imaginary world. When the spell is broken as Jenny's teacher and
companion Otto storms in, Hans must leave without having told Jenny of his
love. Through everything that happens, Jette continues to love Hans from
afar. The moral of this movie seems to be that fairy tales can "tell us good
from evil; and they capture a child's imagination: enclosing it, protecting
it, teaching it simple right from simple wrong before life's confusion sets
in." As we can see from Han's life, even the lowest and poorest of people
can do great things, if they only believe in themselves. His bumbling ways
and slightly crazy, yet-somehow-endearing mannerisms embody a person who is
not quite at home in the world called reality that everyone else lives in.
It is exactly this lack of pretense and normal boundaries that allow Hans to
create such imaginative and amazing children's stories. He is so delightful
and full of fancy, seeing a story in practically everything while enchanting
people with his make-believe world of fairy tales mixed with reality.
There is some content to watch out for: 3 uses of GD, 1 of hell, and one minor abuse of deity. A drunken woman slaps her son in the face. A mean-spirited teacher whips an older boy repeatedly on his back; slight blood is shown. There is a reading of palms. There are also a few things to be aware of: Hans rooms in a brothel for a short time (prostitutes are milling around the inside of the building), a teacher tries to seduce her pupil, and there is a brief mention of someone keeping a mistress. The scenes with the mermaid finding her legs contain near-nudity. (Her hair covers the basic essentials, but a lot of leg is shown.) A dancer in the opening credits flips up her skirt to reveal her underpants. All in all, the content is a bit much for younger viewers. Overall I enjoyed this "flight of fancy," though I cannot say it is one of the best Hallmark movies I've ever seen. I did enjoy the colorful costumes and scenes in the fantasy worlds that Hans dreamed up. If you plan to watch this film, keep in mind that "life is not always a fairy tale" and not all fairy tales have a happy ending.