Review of Riddle of Fire

Riddle of Fire
Riddle of Fire
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The sound of Riddle of Fire can be seen to be irritating in a way: Some trouble-paintball firing children struggle to open up their newly stolen game console using a password; they then set on a trip that will enable them to get the best blueberry cake for their sick mom. This journey is full of risks and sees our heroes face off with poachers, witches, and huntsmen who have had enough “bastard” Woodsy. The movie’s grainy 16mm visuals and nods towards ‘80s kidventure cinema like “The Goonies” and “Stand By Me”, suggest that it’s all just pandering nostalgia – loud movies trading in the kiddie cursing or being endangered stuff for laughs.

Luckily, Weston Razooli’s feature debut is nearly none of those things. It starts with an epic-fantasy-based voiceover, proceeds into deadpan absurdism tinged with dungeon-synth music (a.k.a “Uematsucore”), taking on its own very unique path. If you have any understanding at all about this film you will discover a most delightful adventure, which is probably one of the best movies made this year so far.

In particular, Riddle of Fire is famous for tone. Naturally, this involves telling tales about Alice (Phoebe Ferro), Hazel (Charlie Stover), and Jodie (Skyler Peters) – labelled as such initially-‘The Three Immortal Reptiles’—you find out what that means later- where Razooli easily combines aspects from the classic RPGs with video rental favorites and adult swim into a completely new blend. Wes Anderson’s most recent work comes close to achieving these characteristics especially his deliberate artificiality,and quirky adolescents as showcased in Moonrise Kingdom.The Reptiles are enrolled in something called “dirtbike camp.” They cross paths with the similarly inventively named Enchanted Blade Gang, poachers led by a witch (Lio Tipton). They make friends with Petal (Lorelei Mote), the daughter of said witch. In Razooli’s hands, and within his throwback, handcrafted aesthetic, it’s all very winning.

There is precision here; take into consideration the carefully planned table of snacks – gummy worms tied together as a bouquet and an entire cake included among other things; observe stickers in a truck lockbox that will fill you in on the backstory later. Places and objects in Razooli’s world have distinctive names, whether it’s the destination of Alice, Hazel, and Jodie’s arduous journey (Celia’s Bakery) or their prized console (the Otomo Angel, now with Rifts of Anaxia 6!). Aiding Riddle of Fire to be unique is Wyoming via Utah scenery: white rock cliffs, mountainous forests, log cabins… there´s a real love for place expressed through every frame grounded there clear vividly naïve kids’ eyes can see that. There are no ironies or betrayals to reality but just utter sincerity and total backing up of the joke so to speak.

Dialogue is also precise and funny. At times, the dialogue may come across as if delivered by first-timer’s innocence but still endearing for the whole 113-minute runtime. For instance, words like “two goddamn prairie dogs,” “cute is better than hot,” or even a simple “where the fuck are we?” sound very funny when spoken by children in addition to being so original and strange. Even one look from our main trio alone or the way they run into any store can command the screen and evoke laughter.

Peters speaks only through subtitles which somehow helps. It has to be admitted that sometimes he is quite difficult to understand due to his young age. Besides, it would be wrong to blame him since some of his best lines are like “they’re blaring that sweet, sweet country music!” This cowboy poetry mixed with fantastical absurdity surprises without distractingly stepping away from the characters or story.

Riddle of Fire at its core is about childhood friendships. The Immortal Lizard Gang might even fight each other, get stuck on stupid tasks as well as have their asses kicked by those forest fucking assholes. Nonetheless, they do all these things for each other (and for their beloved game console that they religiously listen to Gecs songs). By the end of it, however, Petal becomes a friend to them too –the lonely princess who’s slowly turning into a witch. As far as payoffs go, this one is pretty great.


Riddle of Fire will become a cult movie when it gets discovered by fans in future years. Cultivated within this film is an atmosphere created entirely by Weston Razooli who gives life through four perfect performances by children and a script that’s half cowboy poetry half silly Adult Swim stuff. A director with a vision beyond doubt declares himself using stunning Kodak 16mm cinematography and framing that is precise down to every line. It is so incredibly sweet and earnest that you cannot help but wish for more after it (just like the perfect slice of blueberry pie).

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