Strange Magic full movie review - "Strange Magic" is a little bit of both - and better than many critics say.
Movie posters have a lot of power. Sure, a theatrical trailer or TV commercial may be more exciting, but you're likely to see a movie's poster more often than its trailer.
Good or bad, accurate or misleading, the movie poster is the image that probably comes to mind first when you think of a movie, and it's probably what you'll be looking at when you approach your local multiplex' box office to buy a movie ticket. I say all that to say this ? I probably would've seen "Strange Magic" (PG, 1:39) sooner if the poster had made the movie look more inviting. Yeah, the poster tells us "Everyone Deserves to Be Loved" (to which I reply, "Here,Here!"), but if you're going to make your point by placing only the ugly characters in your movie on the poster and putting the ugliest of the ugly (even if they have only minor roles in the actual film) front and center, expect to turn some people off. I mean, if the moral of the story is that I'm supposed to love the ugliest creatures around me? you're going to have to ease me into that mess. Don't just hit me with all that up front!
Nevertheless, I'm glad that I finally did see the movie.
In this film's animated fairy tale world, there are two kingdoms, as the movie's intro says, "side by side, but worlds apart." The Fairy Kingdom is inhabited by happy and attractive fairies and elves and is always bright and sunny. The Dark Forest? isn't. This is where ugly imps, trolls and flying insects live. And it's where love goes to die. Literally. The Dark Forest's ruler, the Bog King (voiced by Alan Cumming), believes that love rots and causes disorder, which leads to chaos. Love is banned. (Sounds like someone has some serious personal issues!) He has even imprisoned the Sugar Plum Fairy (Kristin Chenoweth), the only one who can take the pedals of the primrose plants which grow on the border of the two kingdoms and make them into a magical love potion. But that's not why she has been detained. Her imprisonment is more political in nature. It seems that she knows something about the Bog King that he would rather not see posted to Facebook? or whatever social media they have in the Dark Forest. There are issues with the concept and practice of love on the other side of the primrose path as well. The Fairy Kingdom is ruled by a good king, a benevolent despot who just wants his two daughters to find love ? with a fairy good match, especially since their husbands could be king someday. Alas, the king's older daughter, Marianne (Evan Rachel Wood) has broken off her engagement with the very eligible and handsome (and he knows it!) Roland (Sam Palladio) and has sworn off love forever. Marianne's younger sister, Dawn (Meredith Anne Bull) has the opposite problem. She seems to fall in love with every Tom, Dick and Fairy, but is worried that no one will love her. What she fails to notice is that her best friend, an elf named Sunny (Elijah Kelley), has a little thing for her. Through much of the movie, Roland is trying to win back Marianne's love (and the crown, the kingdom and the army that would come with marrying her) and Dawn continues to be oblivious to Sunny's affections.
Of course, you can't keep love down forever. Contact is made with the Sugar Plum Fairy on the inside so she can whip up another batch of that love potion and maybe solve some of those problems in Fairy Land. But you gotta be careful with that stuff. Taking a page from Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream", whoever ingests the potion (whether on purpose or by accident) will fall in love with whomever they see next (whether he or she was the intended target of those chemically-induced affections or not). As Tone Loc would say, you have to watch out for the "Funky Cold Medina"! (That Medina's a monster, y'all.) And, now, since I've mentioned a song from the 1980s, it's a good time to note that much of this movie's action and dialog play out in song. Audience members will hear pop and rock music from the 1960s to the present day from artists as diverse as Elvis, The Doors, Heart and Kelly Clarkson. Just based on the title of the movie and the storyline, you can probably guess what some of those songs would be. In fact, the choreography of some of the scenes to these songs almost makes this movie seem like a rock opera.
"Strange Magic" is a very creative, well-orchestrated film that got a bum rap from most of the so-called "professional critics". First off, the animation is simply amazing. George Lucas (who came up with the story and served as executive producer) used his visual effects and animation company, Industrial Light and Magic, to maximum effect. You can clearly see every freckle on Sunny's adorable cheeks and every bump and stray hair on the Bog King's pointy chin. The animation is so good that I often felt like I was watching a 3-D movie! I just wish so much of the film didn't have to take place in the Dark (and depressing) Forest and that the ugly creatures didn't have to be quite so ugly, or, for that matter, the fairies quite so skinny and disproportionate. As great as the quality of the animation was, the way the characters were drawn was a bit distracting. The story is good, but sometimes felt like it was trying to do too much. Although, the music did tie things together nicely and made the movie more entertaining. And this IS an entertaining movie. It's too bad that more critics didn't agree ? and that the movie poster probably turned off some moviegoers. "B+"