(director/writer: Paul Cox; screenwriters: Barbara Kerr/John Larkin/Margot Wiburd; cinematographer: Vic Sarin; editor: Barbara Kerr; music: Richard Robbins; cast: James Garner (Voice of Gramps/Narrator), Charlotte Sullivan (Elly), Gosia Dobrowolska(Claire), C. David Johnson (Jonathan); Runtime: 39; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Sally Dundas/Barbara Kerr/Lorne Orleans; WB Home Entertainment; 1997)

An imaginative and engaging family science film directed and co-written by Paul Cox.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An imaginative and engaging family science film directed and co-written by Paul Cox (“Cactus”/”Man of Flowers”/”Lonely Hearts”). The film celebrates the spirit of curiosity and the push for knowledge by mankind, and dazzles with its colorful visuals of the fascinating sights of nature and man’s creative inventions. For theater release it was filmed in a special 3-D version of the IMAX high-definition film format, where special glasses were needed.

Eleven-year-old Elly (Charlotte Sullivan) accompanies for two weeks her supportive parents (Gosia Dobrowolska & C. David Johnson) during her summer school break to the secluded picture-perfect country house by the lake of her vacationing in Monogolia inventor grandpa (Voice of James Garner), in New Brunswick, who leaves his granddaughter a letter with clues how to view all his gadgets and a key to a nearby observatory of the inner world he built on a small island on the lake that he calls the “Illuminator.”

This is pure wholesome enjoyment for both children and adults as a worthwhile educational film, as we observe both familiar and unfamiliar things such as salt and many types of insects up-close through microscopes, gadgets such an alarm clock that shoots out soap bubbles, a terrarium with magnified different tea leaves that take on the look of a dark forest and a pocket watch from 1935 that is a symbol for how creation works. There’s a most interesting use of time-lapse close-up photography of a bowl of fruit molding over the course of a few days.

Its weakness is that the visuals are so much better than the corny folksy narration by James Garner, who is unseen but his voice is of grandpa..