You may remember The Pagemaster as a passable fantasy adventure starring everyone's favorite '90s kid, Macaulay Culkin. But watching it today, there's no denying the fact that The Pagemaster is a truly bizarre fever dream of a movie that features some left-field literary references and surprisingly grown-up language and situations. Add a good old-fashioned acid-trippy sequence to the mix, and you've got one strange movie. Like Osmosis Jones, it mixes animation, live action, and a whole lot of innuendo. And it was intended for kids, too!
The Pagemaster centers on 10-year-old Richard (Macaulay Culkin), who takes shelter in a library after getting caught in a heavy rainstorm. There, the librarian (Christopher Lloyd) forces a library card on him, and while wandering around, the kid slips and knocks himself out. When he comes to, the whole world becomes a cartoon, and the books in the library take Richard on an epic quest.
But that description is rather innocuous. The movie is quite unusual and even a little unsettling. The odd and creepy moments in The Pagemaster make some of today's adult cartoons seem rather tame by comparison.
Live-action sequences bookend The Pagemaster, but the bulk of the movie is animated. While that plot device has been used in many films, the cartoon world in this film comes to life after the main character takes a spill. Richard slips on the wet floor, hitting his head and knocking himself out.
This is the single event that sets the rest of the plot in motion. It's hard to tell if what follows is supposed to be real, or if it's the hallucinations of a kid who banged his head.
Immediately upon regaining consciousness, Richard looks up at the library rotunda ceiling, which is painted with literary scenes. It begins to melt, and all the colors liquefy and run together before falling to the ground and rushing through the library. It feels like something you would only experience after taking a dose or two.
As the wave of colors overtakes Richard, he - and everything else in the movie - turns into a cartoon.
Another eerie aspect of The Pagemaster is the fact that the majority of the characters in the movie try to terminate the 10-year-old at one point or another. And it's not just the mystical characters of the cartoon land who are trying to end Richard either.
As Richard pedals his bike through the rain in the opening of the movie, even the landscape seems to be conspiring against him. The wind blows, trees fall, and street lamps pop. And it's all downhill from there. Sorry, Richard.
A few times throughout The Pagemaster, the characters say things and make references that aren't terribly kid-appropriate. In one scene, the pirate Tom traps Richard and tells Long John Silver, "Give the word, Captain Silver, and I'll show you the color of his insides."
In another instance, Dr. Jekyll transforms after downing a martini. Horror even says at one point, "Can I have the olive?" These are some surprisingly grown-up moments in a movie meant for kids.