The world could have used a great CG reimagining of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream. What a shame this isn’t it.
Still there are some good moments to be had from Strange Magic – Alan Cumming rocking out as the Bog King and Evan Rachel Ward flittering through several musical styles as Princess Marianne of the Fairy Kingdom come to mind.
There are two kingdoms: The Fairy Kingdom and the Dark Forest.
In the Fairy Kingdom, Princess Marianne is about to marry Roland (voiced by Sam Palladio), a vain, narcissistic, ambitious fellow whom, she will discover, doesn’t love her. He’s just in it for an army.
Also in the Fairy Kingdom, an elf named Sunny (Elijah Kelley) pines for Marianne’s younger, boy crazy sister, Princess Dawn (Meredith Anne Bull).
In the Dark forest, the Bog King has imprisoned the Sugar Plum Fairy (Kristen Chenoweth) whose love potion failed to win him the heart of the woman he loved – a problem tied to the potion’s antidote (which comes into play later).
Shakespeare’s play – about finding love where you least expect it and the consequences of not following your heart (among other things – none of which are addressed here) – is a spritely, pointed thing that delights in human foibles and in its pain as much as its joy.
Strange Magic, told with about a 60/40 split between ‘70s hits and dialogue – leading to some artful integration of song and story and some very artless attempts at integration of same – feels dumbed down, lowest common denominator.
The first half the film is almost entirely bereft of laughter or, indeed, any strong genuine emotion. It’s only in the second half – when the Bog King has taken Princess Dawn into the Dark Forest (after he was the first thing she saw after being dosed with the infamous love potion) and Princess Marianne and sunny set out to retrieve her – that there’s any real life to the proceedings.
It probably doesn’t help that the CG, while colorful and vibrant, is about three iterations behind what we’ve already seen in top flight movies like Big Hero 6, How To Train Your Dragon 2 and The LEGO Movie.
I did find a few things to laugh about (two of the Bog King’s chief henchpeople Thang and Pare; the Bog King’s worried and protective mother) and mist over at (Princess Marianne discovering she still had the capacity for love even after her recent heartbreak) in the last forty-five minutes of Strange Magic, so it’s not a complete drag.
Final Grade: C-