(director/writer: Wes Anderson; screenwriter: based on the Roald Dahl story The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar; cinematographer: Robert Yeoman; editors: Andrew Weisblum, Barney Pilling; music: Alexandre Desplat; cast: Ralph Fiennes (Roald Dahl/ Policeman), Benedict Cumberbatch (Henry Sugar/Make-Up Artist), Dev Patel (Dr. Chatterjee/John Winston), Ben Kingsley (Imdad Khan/Croupier), Richard Ayoade (Dr. Marshall, Yogi), Jarvis Cocker (Canasta player/manor guest/friend of Henry Sugar/casino entrance man); Runtime: 39; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Jeremy Dawson, Steven Rales, Wes Anderson; Netflix; 2023)

“It’s a fun film, kept short, light and beguiling.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Filmmaker Wes Anderson (“Isles of Dogs”/”Asteroid City”) adapts to the screen British children’s writer Roald Dahl’s 1977 quartet collection made for older teenagers or young adults: “The Swan,” “Poison,” “The Rat Catcher,” all 3 short films are 17 minutes long, and the more whimsical longer one at 39 minutes is “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar.”

The Sugar story is set in the 1930s. It tells of the morally debased, unmarried, self-absorbed, aimless, 41-year-old, wealthy (inherited his deceased upper-class father’s money), gambler, Henry Sugar (Benedict Cumberbatch). He steals a magic manual written by Dr. Chatterjee (Dev Patel), the physician for the Indian stage performer Imdad Khan (Ben Kingsley) while visiting his country house and looking through his library. Thereby Sugar teaches himself the trick by reading the book and through meditation obtains X-ray vision (seeing without his eyes).

When catching the stage act of an Indian yogi (Richard Ayoade), Sugar realizes to perfect the trick he has to train like the yogi. His aim is to cheat at cards while he tours the casinos.

The narration starts with Ralph Fiennes, playing the writer Dahl, as he’s at work writing this story, in his Gipsy House, in Buckinghamshire, England. With that, Dahl passes the narration chores onto the Kingsley character.

It’s a fun film, kept short, light and beguiling.

It played at the Venice Film Festival.

REVIEWED ON 12/9/2023  GRADE: A-