Review: Strange Magic
PLOT: In a musical inspired by Shakespeares A Midsummer Nights Dream, the world of fairies, goblins and elves is explored with tons of pop songs, and a sugary sweet lesson of love.
STRANGE MAGIC, a musical fantasy from Lucasfilm is an achingly sweet concoction of songs and feel good messages about love. The idea that love is blind and you should fall in love with what is on the inside, as opposed to the perfection and beauty on the outside is well and good, its just a shame the movie itself is so shallow. The all-too cheerful recreation of rock and pop songs including Sugar Pie Honey Bunch, Wild Thing and (I Cant Help) Falling in Love With You are huge bursts of happiness. Annoyingly so, the music is in constant rotation as a variety of characters break out in song. All of them are in some way affected by a secret love potion made by the Sugar-Plum Fairy (the second bad movie this week featuring the talented Kristin Chenoweth). There is a whole lot of talk about love, and how great love it, and how everybody should be in love You get the picture.
The story begins introducing us to two different lands. One is ruled by fairies, and the other by a monstrous cretin known as the Bog King (Alan Cumming). Marianne (Evan Rachel Wood) is a princess that lives happily with the fairies and is planning on getting married to Roland (Sam Palladio). Her happiness is shattered however when she discovers her true love kissing another fairy on their wedding day. Well, screw love she says. Suddenly, Marianne is a tough singing, flying rebel with no time for romance. She is constantly fighting off her father from forcing her back on Roland, as well as trying to protect her flirty sister Dawn (Meredith Anne Bull). Meanwhile, desperate to get Marianne back and marry for the crown, Roland convinces an Elf named Sunny (Elijah Kelley) to find the Sugar Plum Fairy - who had been captured by the Bog King - in order to get her to make a love potion. And since Sunny loves Dawn, he thinks it is a worthwhile risk for everyone involved. And you can bet that this potion is going to get out of hand.
The message in this musical fantasy is all well and good. In fact, showing a young audience how important it is to look past the exterior is a marvelous lesson. Yet it is nearly impossible to get past the one-dimensional characters. Dawn is especially annoying when she is exposed to the love potion and falls in love with the Bog King. Her constant blurting out of Sugar Pie Honey Bunch at her little Boggie Woggie is maddening. Even Mariannes flip-flopping from tough girl to victim back to tough girl is a bit frustrating. Dont even get me started on the ever so obnoxious Roland. I get it, he is a pompous ass, but can he at least have a moment that doesnt feel calculated and false. As much of a great story this could have been, its lack of subtlety is infuriating. Young audiences dont need something like this pounded into their membrane.
To be fair, STRANGE MAGIC is clearly not meant for me or most of our JoBlo readers. Even with George Lucas and Lucasfilms name attached, this is a movie that is meant for young girls. And to that extent, they probably have succeeded in making a bright and vibrant animated film for the target audience. It is at times quite a pretty picture. While there is far better animation out there, this features plenty of eye-popping images that sparkle and shine. Director Gary Rydstrom and the animation team have convincingly enough made for an occasionally intriguing world. Even still, it is not nearly as magical as the title would suggest.
Taking a little piece of Shakespeares A Midsummer Nights Dream, a contemporary and classic list of hit songs, as well a shallow telling of loving what is on the inside, it is hard to connect to this cluttered menagerie. The oh-so-happy romantic tunes, or the rock tunes that make the series Glee sound hardcore, fail to inspire much more than a shrug from anybody old enough to know better. Some of the interpretations are fine, yet most drag on far too long. At times it seems that the characters are so sloppily written because they just had to connect something to a bunch of songs about a four letter word that starts with L.
As nice and good as the message can be, there is no real spirit here. The animation may be decent, and the cast is fine - although is it just me or did Cummings dialect keep changing - this is a poorly conceived musical extravaganza. STRANGE MAGIC is hardly more than what should have been a straight to video animated feature. At best, it is a tunefully cheerful collection of pop songs with decent animation. At worst, it is a meandering and dull hour and forty minutes of musical theatre that will be grating to anybody over the age of seven.
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