Strange Magic: Lucas Disappointing Fairy Tale Animation

strange_magic_4An animated romp set in a whimsical land of potions, goblins and fairies, loosely inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Strange Magic is an ultra- modest film produced by the venerable George Lucas.

Only half of the title of this musical fantasy is accurate: The movie is strange, all right, but totally lacks magic.  And it doesn’t help that the visuals are so poorly looking.

strange_magic_5The voice cast includes young actors for the most part, Evan Rachel WoodAlan CummingKristin Chenoweth and Maya Rudolph, who sing new versions of pop and classic rock songs.

The studio is releasing Strange Magic via its Touchstone label, not Disney Animation, while Lucasfilm gets top billing.

Clearly, this musical fantasy-romance is primary aimed at young girls who embraced the far superior “Frozen,” though there are some action sequences to please the boys in the potential crowd.

A patchwork, the tale mixes butterfly-winged fairies, sort of a Shakespearean plot, and a jukebox musical.  The score, just like the narrative, is a mishmash of pop-rock chestnuts, many from the 1960s and 1970.  Among the tunes are Mickey & Sylvia’s “Love Is Strange” and Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love.”

strange_magic_3The heroine of “Strange Magic” is Marianne (Evan Rachel Wood), a Fairy Kingdom princess whose heart is broken by Roland (Sam Palladio), a blond hunk. Marianne’s sister is the flighty Dawn (Meredith Anne Bull). A love potion draws them into the Dark Forest, ruled by the insectoid Bog King (Alan Cumming), where Marianne squares off against the Bog King, and the two develop an unlikely bond.

The story also includes Sunny (Elijah Kelley), an African-American elf whose theme song, Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds,” is stereotypical, to say the least.

The budget of Strange Magic isn’t known, though Lucasfilm kept the costs down by doing animation work in Asia.  Strange Magic is tracking to open in the $10 million range, although Paddington, which is a better film and more entertaining, poses tough competition.

strange_magic_2The movie, from a story by Lucas and directed by Gary Rydstrom, was in the works when Disney paid $4 billion for Lucasfilm in 2012. But Strange Magic was kept on the QT until last fall, when Disney announced a January 23 release.


strange_magic_1“I have three daughters, and I wanted to make a film that was a little more feminine than Star Wars,” the 70-year-old filmmaker said at a screening in New York. “A lot of women love Star Wars, but it was designed for 12-year-old boys.”