Strange Magic (2015) is a tale of light and dark, fairies and bog creatures. The Bog King resides in the dark forest, and has forbidden love to exist. So, he kidnapped the Sugar Plum Fairy, and holds her captive, while his minions destroy any trace of the Primrose flowers (they're used to make love potion). A series of unfortunate events unfold, and a fairy named Marianne must rescue her sister, and stop a love potion from getting out of hand and turning their world into a love-torn mess.
The animation is beautiful. Each character has a wonderful array of emotions, fluent poses, while the detail in characters like the Bog King and the goblins were pretty stunning. The facial animation alone was great.
Voice acting in Strange Magic was amazing. Alan Cummings was great as the Bog King, while the rest of the cast nailed their characters. Dialogue was hit and miss, but it was saved by some truly great performances.
The world, the landscapes, and designs of the Fairy Kingdom were a visual treat for the eyes. A lot of careful consideration was given to this minute fantasy. It truly comes alive and sets a whimsical backdrop to the tale and its host of characters. And for some reason, I loved the talking mushroom! They were great.
Sadly, all of the wonderful visuals were sorely tainted by a lot of horrible misgivings. Um, where to begin? I guess I'll start with the characters. Despite my praise for the eye candy, I didn't like a lot of the character designs. Totally wasn't a fan. Aside from Marianne, her sister Dawn, the Bog King, the possum, and the goblins, every other character was annoying, design wise. It upset me as an artist.
The use of well known songs for the soundtrack just didn't work. I'm a fan of original scores. Every time a character began to sing, I couldn't help but roll my eyes. Figuratively. However, I have to admit that I enjoyed it in Moulin Rouge, but something about the way music is handled in Strange Magic was off. I didn't enjoy any of the musical numbers, and I love musicals. I think a unique score, crafted specifically for this movie, would have helped immensely.
To its credit there were a few songs that I did enjoy. Mostly the songs sung by Marianne and the Bog King. Oh, and Dawn's rendition of “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch” started to grow on me. That and Dawn was freaking adorable.
Speaking of characters, I hated Sunny the Elf. He was the worst character in the film, aside from Roland. Now, while Roland was meant to be hated, Sunny was supposed to be a hero/comic relief. He didn't bring a smile to my face. He irritated me. He was the reason everything fell apart.
Then, in the end, Dawn says I love you to him? I get it, love, diversity, I like that! But there was no chemistry. No spark between them that you ever see during the film. If they at least shared a moment, not a normal moment that Sunny turns into a creepy hug, I would have let it slide. Now Marianne and the Bog King? They had chemistry.
Amidst all the horrible, clunky, mishmashed love tropes, I did think that the way Marianne and the Bog King came together, shared a moment, had things in common, and awkwardly started to gravitate towards each other was really cute. That part, I actually enjoyed.
However, in the end the entire cast forces the Bog King and Marianne to say I love you to each other because they're too awkward and shy to admit it. The cast breaks out into a ballad and, in the most pushy fashion ever, shove them into admitting they love each other. I hated that. Especially because Bog King and Marianne spent one night getting to know each other. One night! I mean jezuh! Give them some time to fall into it on their own. Let them be! Crap. I hate pushy people. Sorry. I digress...
And on a side, off topic note, was I the only one that thought Marianne looked like Lilith from Borderlands 2? I thought it was funny and interesting that her original love interest's name happened to be Roland. Coincidence? Intentional?
Strange Magic is a beautiful film, with wonderful animation. Sadly, the idea of love is heavy handed and pushy, some character designs were awful, while the music seemed wildly out of place, in desperate need of original songs. There's a lovely movie to be had here, if not for many, many, misguided steps.
And oddly enough, despite all my issues, the second time watching it wasn't so bad. It kind of grew on me, now that I knew what to expect. Yes, it's still terrible, but I can appreciate what it was trying to do. My wife and I actually plan to buy it.
It made me smile. There were some moments that were actually funny. Some moments that evoked genuine feelings of love, that I believe the story got right, amidst all the corny tropes and songs. It's worth a watch, and actually has a pretty good message. A message tainted, as I said, with too much heavy handedness, but a thoughtful idea none the less. You'll roll your eyes, yet there are shining moments that will make the movie worth while. Enough to erase all the bad? No, not at all. But worth it enough to at least give it a watch. A few different decisions could have made this a movie to remember. For all the right reasons.
STRANGE MAGIC is available on DVD and Digital in the US from WALT DISNEY STUDIOS and will be released in cinemas in the UK on August 28th 2015