Rated 3.0

In a small family-run circus, the owner’s teenage daughter (Stephanie Leonidas) chafes at the rinky-dink routine, but when her mother (Gina McKee) falls ill, the girl has a bewildering nightmare that helps her sort out her priorities. Written by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean and “directed and designed” by McKean, the movie is a sort of revamped Alice in Wonderland in a teen-angst frame. The story never quite engages our emotions, so we don’t have much stake in seeing the girl work out her problems, but the dream (which takes up most of the 101-minute running time) is a dazzling, surreal tour de force of special effects and visual imagination—an amazing achievement on a reported $4 million budget. Sincere performances and frequently witty character touches also help.