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Still shot from the movie: The Dust Factory.

The Dust Factory

Somewhere between life and death is a world known as The Dust Factory. Get the movie review and more. »

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Overall: B 3.5
Violence: B+
Sexual Content: A-
Language: B+
Drugs/Alcohol: B+
Run Time: 99
Theater Release: 14 Oct 2004
Video Release: 21 Mar 2005
MPAA Rating: PG
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Somewhere between life and death is a world known as The Dust Factory. Ryan Flynn (Ryan Kelly) finds himself in this magical place after a rotting board on a rickety bridge fails to prevent him from falling into the water below.

At first his surroundings look a lot like home. Still, there are some differences. To begin with, there are not many other inhabitants. Also, he can talk - something he hasn't been able to do since he witnessed his father being killed by a train a few years earlier. Even more amazing, so can his Grandfather (Armin Mueller-Stahl), who happens to be there too. The elderly man has been stricken with Alzheimer's and unable to communicate for as long as Ryan can remember.

Perplexed by the situation, the young boy asks the obvious question, "Am I dead?" Although assured he is not, Grandpa leaves further answers up to Melody (Hayden Panettiere). Roughly the same age as Ryan, the pretty blonde happily takes her new chum to a mysterious circus tent. Inside, a group resembling nightclub clientele gathers around the center ring. High above their heads a trapeze artist swings out to catch the person poised to jump from the opposite platform. In whispers, Melody explains those who make the leap successfully move on, while those who fail to catch the outstretched hands go back.

There seems to be little logic in what Ryan sees, but this much he knows for sure. Falling to the floor and vanishing into a puff of dust has got to hurt. Consequently, he has little interest in attempting the feat himself. Nor has Melody or Grandpa. However, as he continues in the idealistic realm of perpetual sunshine, he begins to wonder why he is there and what purpose this existence serves. He also senses the nightmarish Ring Master (George De La Pena), who often interrupts his dream-like pastimes, is trying to force all of them to stop dawdling and decide if they are coming or going.

For young viewers, some of the film's fanciful images may prove frightening. These include a brief reenactment of the accident that claimed the life of Ryan's father (the crash is implied more that shown), some freaky-looking clowns, and scenes where characters are being pulled into a dark hole by long, black tentacles. Other content concerns may be a few profanities, a couple of kisses, some superstitious sentiments, the showing of a deceased woman in a casket during a funeral, and the removal of a fishhook from a boy's backside.

Given its premise, I expected The Dust Factory to be a thought-provoking look at life. And it tries to be. Yet no matter how perfectly Armin Mueller-Stahl plays his part as the wise mentor, the script lacks substance equal to the deep philosophical quandaries it introduces. Messages about not fearing pain, and finding paradise in hard work remain hazy, even after the dust has cleared.

The Dust Factory is rated PG: for thematic elements and some scary images.

Director: Eric Small
Cast: Hayden Panettiere, Ryan Kelley, Armin Mueller-Stahl
Studio: 2004 MGM
Website: Official site for The Dust Factory.

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About the Reviewer: Donna Gustafson

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