Here’s the thing about Strange Magic. It’s easily dismissible. One only has to point-and-click a few times to see the 17% Rotten Tomatoes score and the 5.5 on IMDB (these are the current stats as I am writing this review). These numbers are painfully low, I know this, but hear me out for a few minutes. This movie isn’t as bad as the other critics would have you believe, or as you could believe by simply glancing at a few numbers upon googling “Strange Magic review.” Am I saying the movie is good? Not at all. But it’s better than a point-and-click throwaway.
Here’s the story. In a fantastical world there exist two separate lands: The Fairy Kingdom and the Dark Forest. One is a home to bright and vibrant fairies (couldn’t have guessed that one, could you?) while the other gives home to dark and menacing creatures, led by the Bog King (voiced by Alan Cumming). One of the fairies has vowed to never fall in love again after a case of infidelity, while Lucas’ story tries to remain kid-friendly. It doesn’t get too adult though (even though I’m pretty sure I caught a disguised racist joke pointed towards the character Roland), as the movie turns into a kind of Beauty and the Beast rip-off mixed with Shrek. It isn’t as good as either of those films, but by the end, the love story may just touch your heart.
Then again, I said it “may” touch your heart “by the end,” and that is because it takes a while to get there, and it’s a pretty sluggish ride. It’s an animated musical, one that isn’t being done by a studio that is known for musicals (Lucasfilm), and the musical elements of the film are indeed the weakest. There wasn’t one musical number in the course of the film’s 99-minute run time that engaged me. Instead, I found myself slumped over in my seat, rubbing my eyes, and waiting for them to end.
I would like to say that it isn’t the fault of George Lucas, but I think it is. I admire the guy in a strange kind of way. Many people look at him as the man who destroyed Star Wars, but they tend to forget that he’s also the man that gave us Star Wars. I’m certainly glad that Disney bought out Lucasfilm, and it wasn’t the other way around. Otherwise, we may have gotten Star Wars VII: The Fairy Infested Musical for Teenage Girls.
I know that Lucas didn’t have much to do with the actual making of the film (he’s listed as an executive producer and creator of the story), but that doesn’t take the blame away completely. He has been proud of this film from the get-go, which was supposedly inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream, but with a certain Lucas-y twist. The only problem is, there isn’t much to brag about.
Back to the music, the filmmakers take a very unusual approach. They don’t create their own songs (with the exception of one or two), but instead have their voice actors sing songs from real artists, ranging from Elvis to The Troggs. Whenever characters begin to sing, it immediately becomes unbearable.
The movie isn’t terrible, though, as it does benefit from some good-looking animation, but then again, what animated film nowadays doesn’t look good? The character of the Bog King was one I particularly liked, not for his creepy design (which was splendid), but his character’s heart, one that I resonated with and longed for every minute he wasn’t on screen. And it was as if the filmmakers knew he was the best character, for whenever he was on screen, everything intensified, from the visuals to the film’s score to everything in-between.
It also has a nice ending, one that puts a nice stamp on the character of the Bog King, and I won’t hesitate to admit that is fairly touching. Unfortunately, the film rips off too many other animations (like, say, Shrek, Beauty and the Beast, and most obviously, Epic) and it is just too boring, annoying, and impersonal to leave any form of long lasting impact.
1 hr. 39 mins.
Rated PG for for some action and scary images
Starring Alan Cumming, Evan Rachel Wood
Written by David Berenbaum, Irene Mecchi, Gary Rydstrom
Directed by Gary Rydstrom