It’s fitting that this adventure kicks off with the kids stealing a gaming console, because “Riddle of Fire” often feels very much like a quest-based video game. They begin with a simple task — picking up a blueberry pie — which is then complicated by the cinematic equivalent of NPCs who are willing to help if the kids do something for them in return and villains who get in the way. Each of their assigned tasks sends them further afield and into greater peril, and their stubborn determination to play video games makes them willing to fight any evil to get that blueberry pie. Along the way, they discover their own kid version of a classic fantasy adventure, as the stakes continually rise and they find themselves in actual peril.
The color palette and cinematography give “Riddle of Fire” a rich and sumptuous tone, creating a wonderland out of a small rural community in Wyoming. Its sparse landscapes take on a magical quality, accompanied as they are by fairy tale verses that make the film feel timeless. There are modern elements to the film, but it also feels like a throwback to the style of 1970s and 1980s coming-of-age adventures where kids roam the countryside getting into all sorts of hijinks as they begin the painful process of growing up. If “Riddle of Fire” owes a debt to the fantasy genre, it’s also beholden to films like “Stand By Me.”
Still, though, there’s something about “Riddle of Fire” that doesn’t add up to a cohesive whole, especially as the narrative thrust begins to unravel during its third act. It’s hard to avoid feeling that the aesthetics of the film — which are delightful in their own right — make it feel more profound than it actually is.