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Strange Magic (1 star)

Indigestible, Shakespeare-inspired animated musical from a story by George Lucas

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Strange Magic

‘I hope you’ve got a strong stomach!’ shouts a gnome-like character in Strange Magic, an indigestible animated musical with Shakespearean allusions which may test the gag reflex of unwary viewers. The brainchild of Star Wars creator George Lucas, who claims he wanted to make an equivalent film for girls rather than boys, Strange Magic is a mess of broad comedy, soppy romance and slapdash songs unlikely to win over the hearts or minds of either sex.

Fairy Kingdom royalty Marianne (Evan Rachel Wood) calls off her wedding to the unworthy Roland (Sam Palladio), who decides to seek out magical assistance. Roland obtains a love potion from the Sugar Plum Fairy (Kristin Chenoweth) to win back Marianne's heart, infuriating the fairy's captor, the ugly Bog King (Alan Cumming). The Bog King vengefully kidnaps Marianne’s sister Dawn (Meredith Anne Bull), and when the potion is inadvertently released, Dawn falls in love with the Bog King, angering her father (Alfred Molina) and creating confusion that Marianne must resolve.

Directed by Oscar-winning sound designer Gary Rydstrom, with a screenplay by Rydstrom, Irene Mecchi and David Berenbaum (from Lucas' story), Strange Magic has many of the same narrative elements as Disney's smash-hit Frozen – with sisterly tensions seemingly carried over directly – but comic relief character Sunny (Elijah Kelley) is no Olaf the Snowman, just an over-excitable singing elf who is a permanent strain to watch.

Strange Magic represents an ambitious but unsuccessful attempt to marry the kid-friendly animated fantasy with the jukebox musical (hits like 'Crazy in Love', 'People Are Strange' and 'Bad Romance' are all oddly juxtaposed), while tossing in plot twists borrowed from A Midsummer Night’s Dream doesn’t help. And the spirited voice-work and occasionally dynamic animation count for nothing in the face of an excessive runtime and a depressing tendency to define female characters according to their relationships with men, bluntly ignoring the progress that Frozen made in terms of positive role-models for girls.

Selected release from Fri 21 Aug.

Strange Magic

  • 1 star
  • 2015
  • US
  • 99 min
  • U
  • Directed by: Gary Rydstrom
  • Cast: Evan Rachel Wood, Alan Cumming, Kristin Chenoweth, Maya Rudolph, Sam Palladio, Alfred Molina, Elijah Kelley, Bob Einstein, Peter Stormare, Meredith Anne Bull
  • UK release: 11 February 2015

When fairy Marianne (Wood) calls off her wedding, her suitor (Palladio) enlists the help of the Sugar Plum Fairy (Chenoweth), who's been captured by the Bog King (Cumming). An indigestible mess: kids' animation meets jukebox musical, with a tendency to define its female characters by their relationships with men.

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