Directed by Dave McKean, starring Stephanie Leonidas, Gina McKee, Rob Brydon and Jason Barry.

A case where style lords it over substance, 'MirrorMask' is likely to have a great deal of critics salivating over which superlatives to use.

Our protagonist is Helena (Leonidas), a 15-year-old girl who is fed up traipsing around the place on tour with her family's circus. This leads to a blow out with her mother Joanne (McKee). Following the row, Joanne becomes quite ill and her teenage daughter can't help but feel that her tantrum brought the condition on.

Surgery is required, and on the eve of the operation Helena lapses into a deep sleep. She dreams she has entered a world with two opposing queens. The white queen is sick and her health can only be restored by the elusive MirrorMask. Helena sets off in search of it, with the assistance of a new acquaintance by the name of Valentine (Barry).

She encounters a bounty of creatures and masked inhabitants but, as her journey progresses, doubt arises as to whether this is actually a dream.

Visually, 'MirrorMask' is astounding. The Jim Henson Company has created a stunning dream world. However, it being a fantasy film, children obviously constitute a large section of the target market. Whether today's kids will have the attention span to concentrate in this dark, almost sometimes transparent, landscape poses a serious question.

The plot appears to have been little more than a side issue, left pining for nourishment under the dinner table at the expense of the visual feast. There is the odd funny moment, with Irish actor Jason Barry producing most of them.

Luckily, Stephanie Leonidas saves the movie. The stunning actress recently turned 22, but it would be hard to tell that from the superb coming of age performance she gives here. We really develop a relationship with her character, which is quite a feat.

Comparisons have been made with 'Labyrinth', but the only things the two films have in common are their creators and genre. Sadly, the magic of that 1980s classic is not recreated here. More's the pity.

Séamus Leonard