Monday, January 26, 2015

Strange Magic

Just think: If I'd been able to see this Friday night like I planned, it might have been lumped in with Rocks in My Pockets in a "two very different kinds of animation" post!

Instead, I wound up going Sunday night, and unless someone snuck in behind me after it had already started, I was the only one there for this show. Which is kind of no fun on the best of days - a bad audience can ruin a movie, but a good one enhances it - but I must admit, when I go to a kids' movie like this, I really like to hear how actual kids react to it even if I'm not going to be writing about it. I've still really got no idea whether my niece who freaked out when she opened a fairy activity book at Christmas might react to it, for instance, and I'll trade any awkwardness about being a forty-one-year-old man watching a movie for little girls for that.

(Funny aside: MoviePass had a bug tonight, which means I have to send them a picture of my ticket/receipt in order to get reimbursed. I've got to document that I went to this movie!)

Aside from that, it does make me pretty sad that, as I mention in the eFilmCritic review, this is likely to wind up George Lucas's swan song; by all accounts most of the road map he'd created for future Star Wars films has been discarded by Disney since they acquired Lucasfilm, so unless he does finally follow in Francis Ford Coppola's footsteps and spend his later years making unusual, experimental films, this could be his last credit for doing anything other than creating Star Wars and Indiana Jones. I'll probably spend more time wrestling with his legacy later in the year, when I'll likely rewatch the whole saga in preparation for The Force Awakens, but I never felt particularly angry or betrayed by him like so many others have. I'm going to miss him, and while it probably wasn't realistic to expect he would leave the stage with a creative and box-office hit - careers generally don't end well because otherwise they wouldn't end - it would have been nice.

Strange Magic

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 25 January 2015 in Regal Fenway #11 (first-run, DCP)

I wanted Strange Magic to be good (and dreaded it being otherwise) a bit more than most movies. It will, after all, likely be the last screen credit for George Lucas other than "based upon Star Wars created by", and no matter how much his legacy has soured for many, it would be nice to see him retire on something good. It's directed by Gary Rydstrom, who has done a lot of great sound work and directed two animated shorts for Pixar. Plus, I've got an eight-year-old niece who loves fairies. It mostly winds up a mess, but I'll take that over hating it.

It takes place on the border of the Fairy Kingdom and Dark Forest, which is where the primroses that can be used to make love potions grow. Or would, if the Bog King (voice of Alan Cumming) didn't both make sure the plants were cut down by his goblins as soon as they bloomed and keep the Sugar Plum Fairy (voice of Kristin Chenoweth) who can make such things locked up. Meanwhile, on the other side of the border, fairy princess Marianne (voice of Evan Rachel Wood) is about to marry handsome soldier Roland (voice of Sam Palladio) when she catches him cheating. She doesn't take it well, but her sister Dawn (voice of Meredith Anne Bull) is still boy-crazy, much to the chagrin of best friend Sunny the elf (voice of Elijah Kelly). Roland, still wanting to be king someday, convinces Sunny that a love potion could help them win the sisters' hearts, although those things tend to attract trouble-making imps.

The script is a bit of a mess at points, and like a lot of movies meant for girls but (mostly) written by men, it often has trouble not playing into the stereotypes even as it wants to rise above them. For example, the writers know that "love potions" are dishonest shortcuts, but they aren't going to fully confront how horrible they are, and that seems kind of weak so soon after Maleficent. The characters' personalities could be a little sharper, especially the ladies - Dawn kind of needs her own thing other than being attracted to the guy of the moment, and Marianne's shift from flighty and clumsy to sword-swinging tough girl is kind of clumsy.

Full review at EFC.

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