Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean's mandate from the Jim Henson Company was to take four million dollars and create something in a similar vein to The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, movies that bombed on initial release but have steadily grown in popularity over the years. Thanks to a lack of time constraints, the precedent set by the likes of Robert Rodriguez, and a team of young and hungry computer animators, McKean has made an astounding feature directorial debut that looks as amazing as anything onscreen this year. The daughter of two circus performers (Stephanie Leonidas) enters a dream world in which she must find the eponymous mask in order to trade places with an evil goth doppelgnger who has replaced her back in reality. Not everything looks realistic, but not everything is supposed to. Like McKean's illustrations, the movie combines drawings, photos, hazy filters, superimpositions, and computer effects into a pastiche both beautiful and disturbing. It works, in large part, because the pacing and the dialogue are delivered as if in a dream. Luke Y. Thompson
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