Saturday, 16 April 2016

Review: Strange Magic

Strange Magic
Cert: U / 97 mins / Dir. Gary Rydstrom / Trailer

Okay, I'm very late to the party with this one, but Strange Magic didn't get a particularly robust release in the UK, least of all around these parts. Lucasfilm's first standalone animated feature had already been through the critical mill when it finally arrived on these shores six months after its US release; a reputation which saw it relegated largely to weekend-morning showings, a slot it's still sporadically filling now (hence me finally catching up with it).

It's no secret round these parts that I'm a firm advocate of the godfather of Star Wars, but even I become hesitant when one of the film's marketing lines is "from the mind of George Lucas". Because so was the Holiday Special, as well we know. Strange Magic is a tale of good and evil, love and sorcery, all filtered through the medium of hi-res CGI animation and the jukebox-musical. Yeah, you were onboard until that last bit, weren't you? Hmm. The story centres around two fairy-princess sisters trying to find happiness in the magic kingdom, while the Bog King tries to "ban love" (familiar?) by destroying all the forest's Primrose flowers, which are used to make the Love Potion™ (the mystical equivalent of hypnotic-Rohypnol apparently, so not necessarily a bad thing in itself).

The film bears all the stylistic hallmarks we've come to expect from the fantasy-genre, gorgeously rendered in pixels with lithe voice-acting to match, courtesy of Evan Rachel Wood, Meredith Anne Bull and Alan Cumming (along with many others). But a one-track story interspersed by heavily-produced pop songs makes the film unwatchable. The arrangements aren't necessarily bad in themselves, but the disconnect between polished-musical and the narrative-genre just isn't bridged by the film which wants to wield them both. It's not even that the film doesn't make much sense, but that it's not interesting enough in the first place to try and make sense of.

The final product plays out like 2013's Epic locked in a karaoke bar with only absinthe and Haribo Tangfastics to keep them going. Each time the inhabitants of Dingly-Dell launch into Sugar Pie Honey Bunch you'll be wanting to punch your own face off.

A fantasy tale with as little ambition as it has imagination, this bad Disney fan-film is the dad-dancing equivalent of a West-End rock-opera*1 refitted for a provincial theatre.

As much as it pains me to hate on a Lucasfilm project, Strange Magic is dreadful.

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Oh, I have no idea. I'd normally cite Dark Crystal or Willow, but I don't want to drag them down by association.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?

Is this the best work of the cast or director?

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Depends entirely on which aspect we're disagreeing on.
But, yes.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Didn't notice one, but I spent a lot of time trying to punch my own face off.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Ungle George's pawprints are on this project.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Although to be fair, that's a charge which can be levelled against most rock-operas; especially when paired with the 'jukebox' format, the laziest of all musicals whereby the writer doesn't have to actually write any music.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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