HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Strange Magic
HTS Overall Score:83
George Lucas hasn’t had a lot on his plate since the latest Star Wars films. “Red Tails” was a bit of a flop, and now “Strange Magic” comes to the forefront. It was started back when Lucasfilm as its own standalone company, but then put on the back burner for some reason, and now Disney has shuffled it off to Touchstone pictures to release. I hadn’t heard much about the titles besides the random mutterings about it being releases, but got a little nervous when I saw that most critical reviews were rather scathing. Color me a bit surprised when I actually watch the film and ended up enjoying it quite a bit. Sure it’s not perfect. There are some plot machinations that feel a bit awkward and the end romance feels rushed, but the movie itself is rather cute and entertaining. Especially considering that it’s a kid’s movie co-written by the ever popular whipping boy.
Loosely based upon “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, “Strange Magic” tells the tale of two kingdoms. One is ruled by the evil Bog King (Alan Cumming) and the other by the fairies. Marianne (Evan Rachel Wood), princess of the realm, is getting married to the love of her life, only to have that illusion shattered when she finds him in the arms of another fairy. Bitter and angry at the world, she writes off love for good, and spends her time training as a warrior. Her sister, Dawn (Meredith Ann Bull) is the complete opposite of her. Impetuous and flirtatious she falls in love with another guy every week. Sonny (Elijah Kelley), a young elf, is head over heels in love with Dawn, but she can’t see him for all the hunky guys she’s drooling over. Roland (Sam Palladio), sees the young man as a way to get to Marianne. It appears that the Sugar Plum Fairy can make a love potion that makes anyone who is dusted in its magic fall in love with the first person they see. Roland knows that it’s his only way to get Marianne to marry him (so that he can be king of course) and all it takes is a little push for him to manipulate Sonny into getting the potion for him.
Retrieving the potion is one thing, but when it brings down the wrath of the Bog King, you have a whole different problem. Hating every bit of love, the Bog King retaliates by kidnapping Dawn and taking her back to the black forest. Only one small problem. Dawn gets dusted by the magic potion on the way out and guess who she sees first. Yup, the Bog King. Now the King has a prisoner on his hand who won’t stop singing love songs and he can barely keep it together. Marianne is already on her way to stage a rescue, while the ever arrogant Roland is bringing a fairy army to rescue both princesses (and of course dust Marianne with the love potion).
Once in the castle Marianne and the Bog King have to form an uneasy alliance as they try to find the antidote for the love potion. The Bog Kind is so sick and tired of her that he wants Dawn gone, and Marianne gets what she wants. However, the Sugar Plum Fairy instructs them that the only antidote for the potion is real love, and Dawn has never truly “loved” anyone, just been infatuated. As you guessed it, Marianne and the Bog Kind find out they have a few things in common. They both hate love, they both have been burned in the past and both of them are sick of dishonesty. It’s telegraphed from a mile away, but if you’ve read or seen “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, it all plays out exactly as planned.
I understand where some of the complaints come from with the movie. It’s a musical at heart, but it comes across as just a way to showcase the musical numbers. Over 50% of the movie is music, and most of the music is pop culture songs that are supposed to fit the situation. Sometimes they fit, sometimes they don’t, so it’s not as seamless as it could have been. Second point of contention is that the romance between our two main characters comes across as just a bit sudden. I know most movies like to go with the whole “love at first sight” thing, but one day is hardly enough time to not feel rushed. On the flip side, the animation is simply stunning and the artistic design near flawless. The story itself is pretty classic. Love potions, fairies and true love. I ended up being rather entertained for the most part, and really have to wonder why nearly every major review out there has it at a 1/5 star rating when it’s nowhere near that in my opinion. It’s got a few flaws, but the overall lessons are sound and the well-worn Shakespearean tropes have stood the test of time. It may not be a comeback for George, but I have to give him props for trying something different.
Rated PG for some action and scary images
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=45354[/img]I’m actually really sad that this one didn’t hit Blu-ray. The stunning animation is flawless for a DVD and makes me really wish I could have seen it in 1080p on my system. Colors are bright and heavily saturated, creating a rich and lustrous fairytale environment to revel in. The colors on the front case pretty much tell you what you’re in for. Lots and lots and lots of colors with deep shades of greens, reds, purples and blues. Black levels are exceptionally inky and deep, with stunning shadow detail, and the detail in the rest of the film are just as impressive. The detail in the animation is incredible, as you can see every line and crook and cranny of the Bog King’s craggy features and the individual lines and curves of the fairy wings. Simply a marvelous transfer for a DVD.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=45362[/img]The 5.1 Dolby Digital track is also incredibly good. The surround experience is exceptional as the sounds of the dark forest and the fairy kingdom are alive with detail. Ambient fluttering of wings buzz in the background, rocks fall down from craggy cliffs and the wringing of swords clashing echoes in the background. The songs take up a large part of the track, so they are constantly filling out all 6 channels with ease, ranging from pop-y tunes like “When Fools Rush In” to the country ballads sung by Roland. Dialog is clean and clear, with no problems with the dynamic range. A really good track that almost maxes out the capabilities of the DVD audio format. Well done Touchstone.
• Magical Mash Up: Outtakes, tests and melodies
• Creating The Magic: Meet the cast and filmmakers.
“Strange Magic” is a strange film that certainly shows old Georgey boy has an imagination. It’s not revolutionary, but it’s not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination either. It’s a fairy tale for kids, based off a hundreds of years old play that has bedazzled generations. The animation is simply flawless and the audio is no slouch either. I have no qualms in recommending it for a decent rental.
Starring: Elijah Kelley, Evan Rachel Wood, Alan Cumming
Director: Gary Rydstrom
Written By: Irene Mecchi, Gary Rystrom, Geoge Lucas
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 MPEG2
Audio: English: Dolby Digital 5.1
Runtime: 99 Minutes
DVD Release Date: May 19th, 2015
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