A modestly scaled but very pleasing children’s adventure, “The Penknife” proves you needn’t deploy fantastical story lines or special effects to hold juve viewers’ attention. Item will play well wherever international moppet fare is welcome.
Six-year-old Mees (Olivier Tuinier) lives happily with his parents — though opera singer mom is too often away on concert tours — in a midsize contempo town. He’s dismayed, however, to learn that best friend Tim is soon moving to Flevoland — which locale they don’t realize is just another national province, thinking it instead a faraway nation. (They dutifully make up a “Flevan” language, exasperating their rather humorless schoolteacher.)
Mees is even more distraught to discover that he’s accidentally kept Tim’s ultra-thick, multipurpose pocketknife. He sets off to return this prize however possible, despite not knowing his pal’s current address or phone number. Misunderstandings get him in further hot water with parents and teacher until the clever lad gets himself on national TV, singing a song designed to place the penknife back in its rightful hands for good.
Bright feature gets a lot of humor and suspense out of credible situations, never pushing story or perfs too far for effect. Rubber-faced Genio de Groot is a Robin Williams-type delight as hero’s “househusband” dad, but pic is anchored by Tuinier’s very expressive yet unforced central turn. Tech aspects are high quality.