Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Strange Magic Review: Fantastic Looking, but Lousy Storytelling!

What happens when you have a story by George Lucas and mix it into the animation genre. Apparently you get the film Strange Magic. This animated feature was was a concept that George Lucas wanted to put on screen for a while as Lucas developed a story that was said to be similar to Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night Dream". The end result was a feature presentation that quietly made its way to theaters; but was Strange Magic a film that moviegoers should see or should this animated tale be forgotten?

Strange Magic tells the tale of two kingdoms: the fairy kingdom and the dark forest. When elf named Sunny takes a primrose petal to make a love potion, conflicts rises when the Bog King captures the fairy princesses Dawn (who gets affected by the love potion). In order to save the kingdom and her sister, Marianne journeys into the dark forest to confront the Bog King, but what she finds is something she did not expect: love.

The plot to Strange Magic is simplistic in nature and there is no shame in that. The story in fact had good ideas, such as having themes such as the idea of real love. Granted this kind of theme has been told on film before, but the concept could have lead to a thought provoking plot. The problem with Strange Magic's story is its pacing. There was not enough time to get to know the world of Strange Magic as well as understand the story's conflict. The other issue was that the story's narrative. One moment film is ventures with Sunny, and before you know it Marianne becomes the center of attention. It is not a bad thing to have multiple narratives in a plot, but if you are going to a format like that, you need to know how to handle it well, and Strange Magic did not do that. There were good things in this plot, but due to its pacing this story just felt underwhelming.

The underwhelming feeling did not stop with the plot as the cast also suffered from this issue. While I commend having characters like Marianne and the Bog King, they simply did not have proper development for me to get fully invested in them. These characters had so much potential but their direction was not handled well. The supporting characters were not much better. Most of the cast was either forgetful or they felt forced. Performance wise, the cast was not to bad. While performances were not earth shattering, the cast did get the job done. The particular highlights in the cast was Allen Cumming as the Bog King and Christen Chenoweth as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Aside from decent performances, the cast to Strange Magic did not work for me as the characters did not leave a fantastic impression; or any impression for that matter.

If there is one thing I can take my hat off to about Strange Magic it would the film's animation. The animation is simply beautiful as it showcased a lot of definition as well as color. However, I cannot say the same thing about the film's other major element: the musical numbers. In case you did not know ( I sure didn't) Strange Magic is a Jukebox Musical. Now to the actors' credit, the song are sung nicely. However there was one question buzzing through my mind: why was this film a jukebox musical? The problem I had with this element was that the theme and concept behind Strange Magic did not insinuate that this movie needed to be a jukebox musical. It did not help matters that the musical numbers came one after another. Granted I will give the film credit to sticking with this musical concept oppose to just casting it aside midway through the film. However having an element like this in film such as Strange Magic just felt, well, strange.

Somewhere in this presentation, Strange Magic had an opportunity to be a good movie. It may not have been an animated classic, but there were many elements that could have worked in the film's favor; such as its themes and its performances. However what kills the movie's chances was inconsistency and poor pacing. As fantastic as Strange Magic looked, it was not enough to give this animated film a sense of wonder.

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