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Film review: Princess and the Goblin, The

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As if to deliberately increase our level of anticipation for Disney's "The Lion King," which opens later this month, along comes yet another stiff, unimaginative animated feature, this one representing the dregs of this genre.

"The Princess and the Goblin" is a British feature-length cartoon based on a fairy tale written a century ago by Scottish writer George MacDonald. The story has an innocent young princess named Irene (pronounced "Ireeny") who discovers that goblins live in her basement . . . or more correctly, in caverns within the mountain on which her castle home is perched.

Before meeting up with the goblins themselves, the princess, who dresses like Disney's "Alice in Wonderland," first encounters some of their "pets" in the forest, an assortment of blue and green cats, snakes, dragons and other mutant creatures. (My favorite is a fanged snail).

Fortunately, she is rescued by a peasant boy named Curdie, the son of a local miner, who knows that the goblins and their pets hate singing and can't stand for their toes to be touched — much less stomped on.

Back at the castle, the princess meets her late great-grandmother in a vision, and her father the King returns home from battle. But it will be up to Irene and Curdie, of course, to save the day, after Curdie stumbles upon the goblins in their lair and overhears the evil plan of Prince Froglip to flood the castle, destroy the "sun people" and take over the land above ground.

Unfortunately, the adventures of Irene and Curdie are neither suspenseful nor amusing, and the filmmakers seem to know this, so every now and then there is a vulgar gag, several of them involving nasal mucus, in the hope of at least giving little ones — or their parents — an unexpected gross-out moment. (Near the end, during a free-for-all battle between goblins and humans, a goblin licks the housekeeper between her breasts.)

And there are quite a few strange lapses. For example, unlike the other goblins, which have a single toe on each foot, Prince Froglip's mother has six toes on each foot. And when Curdie discovers this, he gasps in surprise — but nothing more is ever said about it. Then there's Curdie's father, who virtually disappears in the film's second half. Did he drown?

"The Princess and the Goblin" is rated G but does have the aforementioned vulgarities and a fair amount of cartoon violence.