Upside-Down Magic Parent Guide
Production values are far from spellbinding, but this film comes with plenty of uplifting messages for kids.
Parent Movie Review
Best friends Nory (Izabela Rose) and Reina (Siena Agudong) are thrilled to begin their studies at the Sage Academy for Magical Studies. Reina is hoping to perfect her talent for making fire and Nory hopes to stabilize her ability to transform into animals. But when the girls are assessed on the first day of school, Reina is assigned to the “Flare” honors class and Nory is banished to the bunker for the “UDM” group. Nory and three other students are hectored by the principal (Mrs. Knightslinger played by Vicki Lewis) who tells them that they possess “wonky, weird, defective magic.” Furthermore, she berates them, “Your magic is wrong. Upside down magic will never be proper magic.” Convinced that kids with upside down magic provide the perfect cracked, damaged receptacles for dark powers, the principal insists that they cannot be trained but must be isolated until their abilities atrophy. But Nory is not a girl to be easily discouraged…
Let’s begin with the less enchanting aspects of this film. First, it was originally made for TV and, boy, does that ever show. The writing is terrible – have the screenwriters ever listened to tweens talk? It’s clunky and overwrought and just plain bad. The acting is also mediocre but that’s not unexpected. The plot is derivative, basically a mash up of Harry Potter and Sky High. And don’t even ask about the CGI. However, none of this matters in the end because the elementary school aged viewers this movie is aimed at aren’t going to care about issues of quality or originality. They just want to have fun – which they will.
From a parent’s perspective, Upside-Down Magic has plenty to recommend it for young viewers. It has virtually no content issues and even the fantasy violence is tame. A character is briefly possessed by dark magic and a giant shadow monster acts menacing but really doesn’t do very much. This might scare a sensitive six year old but it won’t faze anyone else.
The movie also casts a positive spell on viewers, particularly through its overarching emphasis on accepting and appreciating differences. The story is crystal clear in demonstrating that differences aren’t threatening but that real danger lies in environments that are rigid, intolerant, and dismissive. Shadow magic doesn’t enter the school through upside down magic but through a student who is filled with self doubt and loneliness – emotions aggravated by social segregation and harsh teaching methods. When Nory asserts that “Letting everybody be the best of the something they can be is real magic” she’s got a message that will resonate for young viewers. Whether your child is struggling with the normal ups and downs of childhood or is dealing with the challenges of not being neurotypical or identifying on the LGBTQ spectrum, this movie’s reassurance that their uniqueness is valuable will feel, well, magical.Directed by Joe Nussbaum. Starring Izabela Rose, Siena Agudong, Kyle Howard. Running time: 96 minutes. Theatrical release February 5, 2021. Updated October 2, 2021
Watch the trailer for Upside-Down Magic
Rating & Content Info
Why is Upside-Down Magic rated TV-PG? Upside-Down Magic is rated TV-PG by the MPAA
Violence: There is brief mention of the death of a main character’s mother. There are mildly eerie scenes involving a character and a dark book. A character is possessed by dark magic. A giant shadow monster menaces a crowd of people. There are scenes involving combat between young people and a shadow monster.
Sexual Content: None noted.
Profanity: Characters make minor derogatory comments about other people.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None noted.
Page last updated October 2, 2021
Upside-Down Magic Parents' Guide
Why does the school treat UDM students so harshly? Why does fear often make people do unkind things? What can you do to make people who seem different feel welcome? How can you understand people with different backgrounds or talents?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
This movie is based on the Scholastic series Upside Down Magic by Sarah Mlynowski.
The best loved books about schools for magic are the Harry Potter series. Written by J.K. Rowling, the series begins with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone outside of the USA).
Another story involving best friends attending school for magic is The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani. This novel follows Sophie, sweet and kind, who expects to attend the School for Good and her friend, Agatha, negative and lonely, who plans on going to the School for Evil. But when they show up at school, they’re in for a surprise.
If you’re looking for something different in the genre, check out Black Mage by Daniel Barnes and DJ Kirkland. This graphic novel doesn’t just tell enchanting magical stories, it also tackles race with a black protagonist attending a magic school infected with racism.
Raised as a princess, Nalia is stunned to learn that she’s an unwitting decoy, chosen to protect the hidden royal from assassination. Under her true name, Sinda, she has to find her own way, which eventually takes her to the study of magic. Find out what comes next in The False Princess by Eilis O’Neal.
The most recent home video release of Upside-Down Magic movie is July 31, 2020. Here are some details…
Related home video titles:
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Picked on by his relatives and sleeping in a closet, young Harry Potter is stunned to discover that he has magical powers and needs to attend Hogwarts, England’s school for witches and wizards. His first year of adventures is covered in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Sky High is another school that sorts students – this time into superheroes and sidekicks. Will’s biggest fear is that everyone will find out that he has no magic despite his superhero parents.
A princess struggles to accept her unwanted and atypical magic in Frozen.