In this 2020 adaptation, the victorian setting is moved to 1947. As the movie progresses, the script continues to make baffling choices. The changes that were done by Jack Thorne turn the story into a disneyfied cliche.
To be fair, it’s understandable why 2020’s Secret Garden has a lot of visual effects considering today’s kids grew up with huge summer blockbusters. The movie has good performances on an atmospheric backdrop. Still, this movie misses the point on what the source material is about.
The garden is now a nature reserve with literal magic powers, filled with CGI creations that include leaves that change color and a forest of broad leaves. This in contrast with the haunted mansion that looks like a blown-up gothic dollhouse with a secret walk-in closet and a depressed hunchback old man.
Mary goes back and forth between these two locations where she encounters other broadly painted characters. She discovers the garden thanks to a shaggy dog and finds the key thanks to a bird.
In this story, everyone is dealing with grief and loss. None of it is emotionally affecting because the movie is driven by visuals, rather than storytelling. Worse, the core of this film all happened in the past, which doesn’t make anything that happens in the present engaging. Nothing much happens here, as Mary moves from one showy setpiece to another.
The cast does what they can to sell this movie. The kids are able to portray that wonderment of discovering a secret garden. But because this version made a literal magic garden, it fixes everything for the characters that they don’t need to do anything but visit the place.
The Secret Garden, like Studio Ghibli films, is about how finding the magic in ordinary things can heal you. This 2020 adaptation is a special effect.
Secret Garden (2020)
The Secret Garden is a pointless disneyfied adaptation of a classic tale because of visual overkill and baffling changes.