Home Max Winslow And The House Of Secrets

Max Winslow And The House Of Secrets (12A)

Cast: Tanner Buchanan, Chad Michael Murray, Marina Sirtis, Sydne Mikelle
Genre: Family
Author(s): Jeff Wild
Director: Sean Olson
Release Date: 23/10/2020
Running Time: 98mins
Country: US
Year: 2019

Maxine Winslow attends Bentonville High School with younger brother Ethan. During lessons, school alumnus Atticus Virtue broadcasts a video message to every classroom, which announces an "experimental competition" to win his hi-tech mansion. Five lucky students - bully Aiden Ross, gamer Benny Carrasco, lacrosse golden boy Connor Lawson, social media obsessive Sophia Peach and Max - are chosen by text message to compete for the grand prize.


 

LondonNet Film Review
Max Winslow And The House Of Secrets (12A)

The brilliant mind behind a billion-dollar technology company announces a Willy Wonka-style competition to win the keys to his home in Sean Olson’s teen-oriented adventure. Following Roald Dahl’s template of five young protagonists at large in a potentially dangerous wonderland, Max Winslow And The House Of Secrets dips into a grab bag of limited digital effects to realise a state-of-the-art mansion where robotic knights in armour act as butlers and tiny drones remove dead flies from pristine surfaces. The teenagers look decidedly nonplussed by this gadgetry until they stroll into a games room with a floor-to-ceiling golf simulator, heaving jars of candy and an artificial intelligence that can project their social media onto one of the walls. Selfies and sugar suffice…

Screenwriter Jeff Wild sketches his central quintet in the broadest terms – a computer nerd, social media obsessive, gaming addict, online troll and persistent liar – to highlight glaring personality flaws. Once these misfits pit their wits against various riddles and challenges to earn points that will determine who wins the house, a clunky secondary plot kicks in and the film loses dramatic momentum at an alarming rate.

Maxine Winslow (Sydne Mikelle), who prefers to go by the name Max, feels more comfortable communicating in lines of computer code than face-to-face with another human being. She attends Bentonville High School with younger brother Ethan (Anton Starkman), who has a healthy appreciation for his sister’s abilities. “Max is like Neo from The Matrix except she’s from The Arkansas,” he quips to their mother (Juli Tapken). During lessons, school alumnus Atticus Virtue (Chad Michael Murray) broadcasts a video message to every classroom, which announces an “experimental competition” to win his hi-tech mansion.

Five lucky students – bully Aiden Ross (Emery Kelly), gamer Benny Carrasco (Jason Genao), lacrosse golden boy Connor Lawson (Tanner Buchanan), social media obsessive Sophia Peach (Jade Chynoweth) and Max – are chosen by text message to compete for the grand prize. The teenagers are chauffeured to Virtue Manor and face a series of games judged by the resident artificial intelligence, Home Automated Venture aka Haven (voiced by Marina Sirtis). As the night unfolds, Aiden, Benny, Connor, Sophia and Max discover the hefty and painful price of failure.

Max Winslow And The House Of Secrets remains in first gear, even when we discover Atticus’s ulterior motive for the competition. Romance between Mikelle’s titular heroine and a fellow competitor is lukewarm and one character’s transformative journey through the house relies too heavily on virtual reality. Scriptwriter Wild comes unstuck in pivotal emotional scenes, which require a far lighter touch to convincingly salve deep psychological wounds.

– Kim Hu


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