KLEKS ACADEMY. Welcome to the Music Video [REVIEW]

The new “Kleks Academy” will not be a fairy tale for adults. Whether it becomes one for children remains to be seen.

Marcin Konczewski

30 January 2024

Kleks academy

Creators of the new adaptation of Kleks Academy promised us a completely new fairy tale from the very beginning. They fulfilled that promise. They delivered a lot of world-building potential; their film has a specific and consistent style with many structural elements aimed at younger audiences. However, they seemed to forget that a film is not a music video patched together with loosely connected scenes but a concrete narrative story. At this level, Maciej Kawulski’s production spectacularly stumbles on its own feet.

I must admit that from the beginning, I was a strong supporter of the new adaptation of Kleks. I work with children and young people every day, and I see clearly that the 1983 film has aged poorly and is not appealing to most of them. It’s an archaic curiosity where emotions are stirred by boys bathing together and later a march of wolves. The music and performances of Piotr Fronczewski and Leon Niemczyk, on the other hand, are defended by Gradowski’s production in my opinion. Therefore, I was genuinely pleased with the news of a new attempt to bring this story and world to the screen. The potential in Brzechwa’s literary Academy is immense, but due to its somewhat archaic, fragmented narrative, it is a challenging story to adapt. Brzechwa’s book was ahead of its time, being the first in Poland to seriously treat fairy tales and fantasy, showcasing a completely different approach to learning and imagination. Hence, my high hopes and approval for many actions surrounding Maciej Kawulski’s film. Casting Tomasz Kot in the titular role seemed like a great move from the start, and the idea of creating a production that would be our answer to Harry Potter made sense, although I always view such declarations with a skeptical eye. I also supported the decision to make plot changes, introduce girls, and change Adam to Ada. Why not? If this story was to be adapted for modern times, it couldn’t remain unchanged. Now, it’s time to assess the result of over two years of the creators’ work. And, well, in many aspects, I can say that Kleks Academy will appeal to children. The creators consistently argue that it is a film for them, and I agree – the focus should be on the youngest viewers. In my opinion, Kawulski’s film has a lot of potential, but at the same time, it has many mistakes, flaws that were even noticed by the main audience: children.

Kleks academy

The new Academy presents us with the story of Ada Niezgódka, who, like Neo from The Matrix, receives the opportunity to choose from Morph… the bird Mateusz – to stay in the real world or go to study at Mr. Kleks’ fantastic school. The girl has trouble focusing, is portrayed as a socially awkward boy with a plan. The choice is obvious. Soon, it turns out that the Academy is threatened by an attack from the Wilkuses, who want to seek revenge on Mateusz. In certain aspects, I am torn; it’s evident that there is a lot of potential in the concept and ideas. However, in terms of plot, script, and narrative execution, I cannot defend the new Kleks. It feels more like a music video, a film-like product rather than a full-fledged movie. Yes, there are good elements and intelligent issues, but they are interwoven with absolute clichés, shortcuts, and poop jokes. I have no intention of defending this because the poop joke is repeated five times in the first 30 minutes, making it unfunny even for the least demanding child. It was audible in the audience. Kawulski’s film has its moments, I must admit. The world-building is immense, colorful. I bought into it because visually, it’s a film with a specific color palette, concept, and to some extent, consistency. I also saw potential in the musical score (Sanah didn’t bother me at all), although there was definitely too much of it. However, the story itself… well, it’s not good. Simply put. At times, it treats the audience like idiots, infantilizes where it shouldn’t, and takes itself too seriously where it could tone down. Moreover, the plot is sometimes stupid. From the middle of the film, the characters, including Kleks, become foolish. The potential of Kleks is squandered here. Tomasz Kot is perfect for the role; he acts with his entire being. In the first act, he is great, shrouded in mystery. And that’s it. Kleks is consistently led only at the level of exposition. It’s a shame that he got a poor script because later, along with Mateusz, he becomes a comic relief.

Kleks Academy defends itself on the level of certain messages. In my opinion, people with pedagogical experience could confidently use them as ready-made elements for analysis in lessons. Wisdom – perhaps presented somewhat too didactically in modest dialogues – such as the conversation about empathy and the portrayal of difficult family relationships is good. I also liked the motif with the dog and the button. Truly valuable things. However, they are often spoiled by poorly thought-out plot solutions, for example, when Kleks throws a ball to a disabled boy or when the knowledge and power acquired by children are completely unused in a threatening situation. It’s hard for me to believe that no one noticed such obvious shortcomings in post-production. The introduction of young students from around the world is quite stereotypical and ultimately unnecessary because they have no impact on the story or any significance after the Wilkuses’ attack. It seems like the creators decided to check off necessary elements, reconcile everyone, and then forgot about them. This is clearly seen in building relationships between the students of the Academy. We don’t see it on the screen; we only get information about them in dialogues. Everything on this level is very superficial. Therefore, there may be a big surprise in one of the most important scenes that should evoke emotions when it is said that one of the characters is Ada’s best friend. As a viewer, I immediately asked myself: “Hey, when did this happen? When did they become friends?”

Kleks academy

In such an approach, Mr. Kleks himself takes the lead, but from the second act onwards… he ceases to exist. There is no place for Ambroży in this story; he becomes only an incompetent jester who forgets about all his powers, skills, and dignity. I could buy into it even if the creators explicitly wanted to convey to the audience that the children should take the initiative in this story, save the adults. It would be an interesting plot lever. However, there are no such signals, real events are not translated because EVERYONE behaves irrationally here. Sequences jump from one to another, narrative chaos dominates, and everything is resolved at the level of… wishful thinking of the main character. It’s a bit naive. Even for a child.

How does Kleks Academy fare in terms of acting? Tosia Litwiniak, who played Ada, had a challenging task, and I think she passed the test. The script bothered her a bit, where she had to run for 15 minutes with tied hands, talk about a plan that doesn’t exist, or deliver lofty phrases without a basis, but the burden of the lead role was carried. I mentioned Tomasz Kot earlier, who is fantastic but unfortunately wasted in terms of the plot. The child actors here are very good. Unfortunately, some supporting adult characters perform poorly. Danuta Stenka is very intriguing as the villain, but in the context of the plot, she ends up feeling a bit like an extended SNL sketch. The Prince of the Wilkuses (which are not as scary as it might seem) is a casting and acting DISASTER. I also didn’t buy Mateusz’s bird played by Sebastian Stankiewicz. However, this is a subjective matter as I didn’t like the humor presented in this character. The actor tried his best, though. It’s worth noting that the makeup and costumes are well done, but I’m surprised by the creation of the Wilkuses’ own language, stylized as Mordor’s speech. This solution is very interesting in itself, but does it fit a children’s film? It’s hard to say. During the pre-premiere screening, parents had to read many lines aloud to their children, which would be quite challenging in the context of a school trip, for example.

Kleks Academy is a long music video where theoretically everyone should find something for themselves. It is primarily a production for the youngest viewers, who should leave their assessment, as it is difficult for an adult viewer to overlook the myriad obvious flaws that Kawulski’s film is filled with. It will be a box office hit, a sure thing, but to become something more, potentially the Polish Harry Potter, many things need to be improved. I hope the creators will come to their senses, especially regarding editing and creating a good script. Otherwise, they may not attract millions to theaters for the second time.

Marcin Konczewski

Marcin Konczewski

The founder of the Kon (Horse) Movie fanpage, where he transforms into a film animal who gallops with pleasure through the multiverse of superhero productions, science-fiction, fantasy and all kinds of animations. If he had to say something about himself, he would say that Kon is a pop culture lover, a self-proclaimed critic constantly looking for a human in cinema, a fan of non games, literature, dinosaurs and Batman. Professionally, a teacher (by choice), always opposed to the concrete education system, strongly pushing alternative forms of education. He quietly writes fairy tales and fantastic stories for his little son. A Polish philologist by education. He collaborates with several publishing houses and YouTube channels.

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