Genre: CG Animation
Director: Gary Rydstrom
Cast: Alan Cumming, Evan Rachel Wood, Kristin Chenoweth, Maya Rudolph, Sam Palladio, Meredith Anne Bull, Alfred Molina, Elijah Kelley, Bob Einstein, Peter Stormare
RunTime: 1 hr 39 mins
Released By: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Official Website: https://www.facebook.com/StrangeMagicMovie
Opening Day: 29 January 2015
Synopsis: “Strange Magic,” a new animated film from Lucasfilm Ltd., is a madcap fairy tale musical inspired by “A Midsummer Night's Dream.” Popular songs from the past six decades help tell the tale of a colorful cast of goblins, elves, fairies and imps, and their hilarious misadventures sparked by the battle over a powerful potion. Lucasfilm Animation Singapore and Industrial Light & Magic bring to life the fanciful forest turned upside down with world-class animation and visual effects.
Like any of the post-Star Wars movies (for example the World War II flick Red Tails which is not released here) from George Lucas, Strange Magic is years in the making before finally releasing under the Touchstone banner.
While Star Wars is made for the boys, Lucas wanted something for the girls - thus the idea of Strange Magic is born. Inspired by Shakespeare’s comedy play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the story follows the adventures of two fairies whom reside in a magical kingdom filled with wild animals, elves, goblins and magic spells.
The gung-ho fairy, Marianne (Evan Rachel Wood) is due to marry a narcissistic handsome fairy Roland (Sam Palladio) until she finds out he is actually two-timing her. Her elder sister Dawn (Meredith Anne Bull) on the other hand is a die-hard romantic who craves to meet her true love. The story written by Lucas, director Gary Rydstorm and two other credited writers hurriedly establishes our two protagonists within the first 15 minutes before introducing the other main character Bog King (Alan Cumming), a grasshopper-like ugly creature who vows to get rid of any existence of love potion in the kingdom.
From the beginning, Strange Magic is filled with pop songs from Can’t Help Falling In Love to What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger) in addition to an annoying version of I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch), a bad repertoire of songs that doesn’t quite appeal to the younger kids and sounds terribly out-of-place especially in a fairy tale setting. You can blame Disney for all those commercialized, catchy theme songs over the years but at least it beats recycling decades old pop tunes.
There’s not much originality to offer in the story department though it boasts a theme of Everyone deserves to be loved. A beautiful female lead falling in love with the unlikely character of all doesn’t sound at all attractive and compelling in the end. The animated adventure is not as nearly as spirited as Pixar’s Brave despite sharing a plucky female lead and a magical setting. It’s hardly amusing for the entire duration despite featuring an array of colourful characters and most likely you will merely snigger at the antics of the mushrooms.
To make up for the severe lack of dramatic edge, the quality of the animation and look of Strange Magic handled by Lucasfilm Animation Singapore and ILM are enthralling and the visuals often inviting. Lucas preferring to opt for less familiar faces and voices did a tremendous job picking up Evan Rachel Wood and Cumming for the lead roles. Cumming given his rich experiences in theater is amazing as the imposing Bog King. Elijah Kelley assuming the role of an elf who has a soft spot for Dawn is serviceable as the fumbling sidekick. Kristin Chenoweth is generally hilarious as Sugar Plum Fairy, the culprit behind the concoction of love potion.
Academy Award winner, former sound designer Gary Rydstorm making his directorial debut seems to be at a loss with all the material presented in front of him. Strange Magic is indeed a strange mix of musical and fantasy. Perhaps the main reason behind the lackluster treatment is it took too long from conceptualization to fruition even the similar theme, Blue Sky’s 2013 Epic while not exactly a strong title ironically feels superior. On hindsight even with the limitations of CG technology, Lucas probably should have released this 10 years ago.
(Hardly enchanting, even pixie dust can’t salvage this mediocre effort)
Review by Linus Tee