Strange Magic

January 23, 2015

The Bog King (Alan Cumming) and Marianne (Evan Rachel Wood) in STRANGE MAGIC.

Directed by: Gary Rydstrom

Written by: David Berenbaum, Irene Mecchi, Gary Rydstrom

Cast: Evan Rachel Wood, Alan Cumming, Sam Palladio, Meredith Anne Bull, Elijah Kelley, Kristin Chenoweth, Alfred Molina, Maya Rudolph, Peter Stormare, Bob Einstein

Rating: PG (for some action and scary images)

Running Time: 99 minutes

STRANGE MAGIC isn’t what you may think it is. Disney’s marketing of the film downplays that it is a madcap fairy tale musical made for girls (which George Lucas, the film’s story originator, has been saying in his interviews). It is inspired by “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and is one of the most visually stunning animations ever.

This is Industrial Light & Magic’s second animated feature film. It is their follow-up to RANGO (2011), the equally beautiful animated western inspired by ONCE UPON TIME IN THE WEST that was directed by Gore Verbinski and its lead character voiced by Johnny Depp.

STRANGE MAGIC’s overall message is that love conquers all and you can’t judge a book by its cover. For some, the message might be a bit simplistic, but I think it is fine for a fairy tale that is looking more for laughs and drama than it is for a deep philosophical meaning. After all, the film is for children (but I think parents will like it too).

The story is about Marianne (Evan Rachel Wood), a fairy princess that has been cheated on by her bro-like fiancé, Roland (Sam Palladio, who sounds a lot like Nick Cage). Marianne calls off the wedding. Roland decides that the only way to get his princess back is to have a love potion made (a rather unfortunate plot point with the current Bill Cosby drugging women news), and the only person that can whip-up a love potion is the Sugar Plum Fairy (Kristin Chenoweth) who is unfortunately held prisoner by the Bog King (Alan Cumming). There are also some important secondary characters that are essential to the plot, but I think you get the gist of where the story is headed.

As for the music, Marius de Vries (MOULIN ROUGE) serves as both the musical director and composer on the film. While the eclectic choice of music worked for Baz Luhrmann’s outrageously fun MOULIN ROUGE, here the music chosen from popular songs of the past six decades doesn’t always mesh, especially at first when the music overpowers the storytelling.

I’m not exactly sure what ILM is doing to create such a unique and captivating look to their animations compared to what Pixar and Dreamworks are doing, but it definitely has a clarity and beauty all its own. And even though there are issues with certain aspects of STRANGE MAGIC, I can’t wait to see the next animated film they produce.

James R. Janowsky

Follow James on twitter @jamesjanowsky and FILMHotspot on twitter @FILM_Hotspot.

Grade: B+

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