By Ivan Mateo
“Strange Magic” comes from the creative mind of George Lucas, and tells the tale of a fantasy world split between happiness and effervescence and mystery and darkness.
On the happy side, two princess fairies, Marianne (Evan Rachel Wood) and Dawn (Meredith Anne Bull), reside with other fairies, pretty flowers and always smiling inhabitants such as an elf named Sunny (Elijah Kelley). Everyone wants to love and to be loved.
On the darker side, the Bog King (Alan Cumming) rules the goblin empire of dampness, thunder, mushrooms and spiders. They just want to be left alone in their seclusion and hate love. Bog King imprisons the Sugar Plum Fairy (Kristin Chenoweth) because she can make love potions.
Marianne’s wedding to Roland (Sam Palladio) arrives, and everyone gears up for the grand spectacle. However, Marianne discovers her prince charming cheating on her. She quickly forgets him, dons armor and commences sword training. Why? She just does.
A female protagonist striving for independence after another’s wrongdoings produces an interesting premise, but quickly contradicts itself when another female character falls in love with any man she meets.
Most of the movie made little sense. The Bog King actually desires to be loved? A little elf can singlehandedly free the Sugar Plum Fairy deep within the dark forest, with little to no resistance?
Every instance a character begins to have or show a hint of an emotion, they instead sing popular songs from different eras. Songs are fine, but here they are poorly utilized as a crutch to hold back its characters. The song choices are fine and well known too, with such selections as: “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” “Stronger” and “Say Hey.” When 10 or more songs litter a film and stunt any character development, serious problems arise.
In movies such as Disney’s “Frozen,” songs are popularized because they are performed wonderfully, have catchy lyrics and executed in accordance with the story. But, in “Strange Magic,” the songs govern every experience in the movie. The old adage of quality over quantity clearly gets ignored here.
My favorite character, the Imp (Brenda Chapman), had no lines in the film, which also thankfully meant there was no avenue for singing. The Imp solely plays the trickster role by causing mischief and shaking up everyone else’s world. A break from the monotonous singing changes the pace.
The film moves quickly, but at the same time, not fast enough. The characters needed some kind of development, but if given more screen time, the film almost assuredly would have contained more songs. “Strange Magic” even ends with a final song.
The performance of the titular song “Strange Magic” fell flat and lacked the emotional “umph” expected from the main number. Actually, most of the songs lacked necessary emotion for even a good performance.
Nowadays, movie trailers provide too much information about what to expect, but this is one of those rare moments where the movie trailer doesn’t show enough. Singing numbers barely popped up in the trailer, and surely did not number in the double digits.
At one point in the film, a character’s singing causes the enemy group of goblins to cower to their knees and cover their ears in utter discomfort. They were fortunate they did not have to endure the singing for the entirety of the film.
It’s as if Lucas and his team partied the night away at a karaoke bar, and came up with the premise to “Strange Magic.”
Audiences looking for a family movie with actual character development, a sensible story (as sensible as a story about a walking/talking bear can get), and absolutely no singing, should go watch “Paddington” instead.
“Strange Magic” is rated PG for some action and scary images.
“Strange Magic” is in theaters now.
Courtesy Touchstone Pictures
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