Strange Magic (2015) – reviewed by George

This animated film was produced by Lucasfilm, Ltd., with Story by George Lucas himself, but since Lucasfilm  is owned by Disney this is also a Touchstone Picture. The Fairy Kingdom and the Dark Forest have a common border, and along that border primroses grow, and primroses can be used to make a love potion. The Bog King, ruler of the Dark Forest, destroys the current growth each spring. But since the theme of the picture is “Everybody deserves to be loved”, you can be reasonably sure someone is going to find enough primroses to make that potion (or maybe they already have).

Director Gary Rydstrom has put together a film that at first look seems to be made for young girls 12 to 14 years of age. The songs are so numerous they seem to come five seconds apart, and the male lead, Prince Roland, has a bad boy quality and a fixation on his hair that seem right out of Tiger Beat. But if you stay with it, you realize the songs are golden oldies (Can’t Help Fallin’ in Love, Love Is Strange, I’ll Never Fall in Love Again, along with a few more recent numbers like Stronger and I Wanna Dance with Somebody), the characters are more complex than you expected, and you see how much thought went into this, so it begins to come off as clever and worth your time.

The animation is really good, and for once I remembered to check the cast before watching so I knew, even though I did not recognize any of the voices, that the Bog King was Alan Cumming, the Fairy King was Alfred Molina, the Sugar Plum Fairy was Kristin Chinoweth, Griselda (the Bog King’s mother) was Maya Rudolph, and the various young adults who form attachments, break them, and reform them, possibly with new partners, were Evan Rachel Wood, Sam Palladio, Meredith Anne Bull, and Elijah Kelley. Everybody got to sing except Alfred Molina, and they were all good. A special shout-out to the vocal work by Evan Rachel and Meredith Anne.

And as the film progresses, the theme progresses too, to “Everybody deserves to be loved no matter how they look or how short/tall they are.” Good job!

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