The air felt different at Dallas International Film Festival. There were young kids with their parents about to witness a screening. Surely, film festivals only show bleak dramas or quirky comedies, right? Incorrect! Meet Into the Who Knows!, the film that just now shattered your (and my) preconceived notion. In the vein of Where the Wild Things Are, this family fantasy-drama explores a young child’s imagination as he struggles to accept the realities of growing older at summer camp. On paper, it sounds promising and inventive – and certain aspects of it are – but ultimately, we receive an uneven, slower adventure.
What firstly deserves applause is director/co-writer Micah Barber‘s approach to filmmaking. There are hardly any moments in Into the Who Knows! where computer effects run rampant. Only one particular scene demanded CG presence, and it was somewhat contextually silly, but that’s a risk the genre brings. However, “practical when possible” seemed to be largely the rule instead of the exception, and it was a rule that paid off. As some examples: our protagonist’s imaginary friends wore creative costumes; when magical plants sprouted quickly, they were done so with real props and tools; when brighter-than-usual fireflies flew on the screen, some were legitimate LED bulbs. As I stated, this method of filmmaking is commendable when accomplished, especially since it’s unfortunately becoming somewhat of a lost art.
Secondly, our two leads Thomas (played by Bryce Gheisar) and Felix the Fox (Thomas’s stuffed animal come to life, played by Delaney Wingrove) are a joy to watch throughout. Their chemistry is evident and they’re both clearly having a blast with each other. Then when a scene demands further emotional depth, both are more than capable of showing those vulnerabilities. Deeper in the supporting cast, you have Lee Eddy and Macon Blair playing Thomas’s Mom and Dad respectively. The casting director couldn’t have found two more relatable parents if they tried, as these two kill it despite how scarcely they’re utilized.
Unfortunately, beyond the dynamic cast of characters, Into the Who Knows! has a few stumbles. If you’ve seen one ABC Family film about a central character coping with their identity and loss of youth, you could probably predict every story beat this movie lays out without seeing it. That’s not to say it’s impossible to enjoy what you see on the screen, as parents and children certainly will, but it’s a present flaw – one that’s detrimental to the pacing as a consequence.
While the themes of self-exploration and self-acceptance are appreciated, other facets may not resonate with everyone. If you’re a perpetual bachelor or you simply didn’t attend summer camp as a kid, Into the Who Knows! could be lost on you entirely. Notwithstanding, with a full audience of parents and their kids at this flick’s world premiere, the theater’s energy was high and smiles were abundant. This is likely to be the same in any family-occupied theater witnessing this movie.