Computer-animated musical is “strange” indeed

Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

Strange Magic is certainly an experience. There really is no better description for this movie.

Directed by Gary Rydstrom (who has only ever done sound design in movies before), this computer-animated musical is a re-imagining of the Shakespearean classic, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

For a movie revolving around fantastical situations and never-before-dreamed of worlds, the main plot is pretty simple. There are two kingdoms, one good and one bad. The main character, Marianne (voiced by Evan Rachel Wood, Across the Universe), is about to get married, but she finds out that her fiancé is cheating on her and vows never to fall in love again. Years later, her sister is kidnapped by the Bog King (Alan Cumming, The Good Wife) and Marianne ventures into the Dark Kingdom to save her. Outside of this driving conflict, there are various subplots that are unfortunately too convoluted to even list here.

Despite any shortcomings in the originality and flow of its story, one of the more redeeming qualities of Strange Magic is the visuals. Suffice to say, the film is definitely one of the nicest-looking animated movies to have been released in recent months. Every object pops with vibrant colors, and the look of the film, while not entirely unique in general style, is pretty refreshing given the boundless opportunities of its magical forest setting.

The voice acting is also pretty good, as far as animated musicals go. While the performances might not be the most mind-blowing or tear-inducing, the actors hit all the right emotional notes, resulting in a consistent level of energy and emotion.

The ending of the film was fortunately one of its better aspects. To avoid spoilers, nothing will be said about it here, besides that it takes a tired premise and puts a more realistic, albeit small, spin on it.

Sadly, the film has a lot of poor qualities as well. As this movie is a musical, one would think that the songs would be good, or at the very least catchy, but in actuality they are quite terrible, a fact made more unfortunate considering the director has won awards in sound design in movies like Toy Story and Finding Nemo. The soundtrack of the film consists of remixes of songs popular throughout the years, from “Can’t Help Falling in Love” to “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You).”

The first problem with the music is that the song selection is very random. It has no cohesiveness and seems to have little or nothing to do with what is happening, with only a verse or two being applicable to the situation at hand.

The second problem is the fact that the remixes of the songs range from acceptable to downright awful; coupled with their poor use in the movie itself, it makes for a very disagreeable experience, made worse by the fact that there is singing throughout the entire movie.

The story itself is thin. Other than the ending, which is very enjoyable and actually pretty good, the story is overwhelmed by clichés that bog down its overarching flow. Many plot points can be seen from a mile away, making most of the experience highly predictable.

Overall, Strange Magic is okay. It falls flat in most places; the story is predictable beyond belief and the songs are downright bad. However, because of some redeeming qualities in the visual effects, the character and world design, the voice acting and the ending, there may be some value in seeing the movie. As stated before, the movie is an experience, but audience opinion may differ.

Our Take: 1/5