The House of Magic (3 stars)

The House of Magic

Exceptional 3D effects and quirky character design fail to disguise a flat, humourless script in this family adventure

Co-directed by Ben Stassen and Jeremy Degruson, The House of Magic is the latest animated adventure from nWave Pictures, the Belgian animation studio behind the likes of Fly Me To The Moon and A Turtle's Tale (both directed by Stassen). Like these movies, The House of Magic features appealing character designs and impressive 3D work, but considering the title, it's rather limited in imagination.

The hero of the film is Thunder (voiced by Murray Blue), an abandoned ginger kitten who discovers a world of seemingly living inventions when he stumbles into the mysterious house of an old magician (Doug Stone). Being an exceptionally cute kitten, Thunder is immediately welcomed into his new household by the magician and his gizmos, much to the chagrin of grouchy, jealous Jack Rabbit (George Babbit) and his mouse sidekick Maggie (Shanelle Gray). However, when the magician ends up in hospital, his greedy nephew (Grant George) schemes to sell the house from under him, so it's up to Thunder to foil his plans and save the day.

It's been a feature of Stassen's previous work that they tend to favour the 3D work over the actual script and so it proves here: the film makes full use of its exceptional 3D effects, with all manner of things popping out of the screen at you on a regular basis, including, at one point, an entire driveway that seems to jut out just under your nose. Similarly, the character design has a quirky beauty to it, particularly living lightbulb Edison.

Unfortunately, the script is decidedly flat, with very little in the way of humour (there's barely even a sight gag) and lacklustre dialogue. That said, this is easily Stassen's best film to date and it should appeal to undemanding small children who've never seen a Pixar movie.

Screening at Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Sat 28 Jun as part of Edinburgh International Film Festival 2014. General release from Fri 25 Jul.

The House of Magic (trailer)

The House of Magic

  • 3 stars
  • 2013
  • Belgium
  • 1h 25min
  • U
  • Directed by: Jeremy Degruson/Ben Stassen
  • Written by: James Flynn/Dominic Paris
  • Cast: Cinda Adams, Edward Asner, Emily Blunt
  • UK release: 25 July 2014

Thunder, an abandoned young cat seeking shelter from a storm, stumbles into the strangest house imaginable, owned by an old magician and inhabited by a dazzling array of automatons and gizmos.