Strange Magic – Movie Review
Strange Magic – PG
Release Date: Fri 23 Jan 2015
Strange Magic is an animated family fantasy musical based on a story by George Lucas and loosely adapted from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was animated by Lucasfilm Singapore and Industrial Light and Magic, the same source of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series.
The story involves a land divided between the beautiful green Fairy Kingdom and the Dark Forest. Two sister fairy princesses are introduced; Marianne (Evan Rachel Wood) is about to be married which will put her husband in line to succeed the throne from her father. Dawn (Meredith Anne Bull) is a constant flirt and searching for a soul mate. There is a magic flower that grows on the border of the lands that can be made into a love potion by the Sugar Plum Fairy (Kristin Chenoweth) who is currently the captive of the Bog King, (Alan Cumming) ruler of the Dark Forest.
It’s a fairly complicated story that twists and turns as an adaptation of the Shakespeare play should. The love potion factors into some funny couples and serves to mix the characters from the two factions together in fun ways rather than some all out battle. The movie is a musical in a similar style to Moulin Rouge, using pop songs from the 60’s to the present. Everything from The Troggs to Kelly Clarkson is licensed and used for a line here and there that fits into a particular scene. The music varies from being anachronistic and odd to just feeling like lazy licensing. It’s as if the movie were written around what songs they could get for cheap rather than having original songs made.
The voice acting and singing is perfectly fine, but it’s not exceptional in any way. There are some good singers in the cast, but you never feel them really shine in the music. Again, it feels like music for the sake of checking a box on a family film checklist versus creating a memorable moment or rendition of any of the songs.
The animation is spectacular. It is beautiful and bursting with detail in both the character and environment design. With the intentional exception of a few characters that serve as glorified back-up singers for a couple of characters, there aren’t two characters even in the background that look exactly the same. This injects personality into the characters, and with as many named players as this movie has going for it, that’s very helpful in keeping up with the plot.
You will know how it ends longs before it does, and the movie seems to know this as it ends in an abrupt kaleidoscopic scene that gives a last glimpse at each of the characters. Still, this is only because so many stories have a similar formula and younger kids who aren’t reading Shakespeare plays or seen something like Pride and Prejudice will enjoy it all the way through. It’s a gorgeous film with a few genuine laughs to sustain it through the mostly mediocre songs that are performed adequately but not memorably. Strange Magic is perfectly fine family film at the theater or at home.
Aaron and I saw it in the theater and had a discussion in the car: