When George Lucas sold his Star Wars franchise to Disney, he got something else in return. He got a studio that was willing to allow him to make the animated movie Strange Magic. See, this movie has been a passion project for the last 15 years. Lucas has always had the money to make it. Lucas had always had the animation team to make it at ILM. Now, with Disney, he had the studio to release it.
According to Lucas, Star Wars was a movie he made for 12-year-old boys. Strange Magic is his movie for 12-year-old girls, of which Lucas had three at one time or another. Not only was this a movie that Lucas made with the idea of his daughters in mind, but he also took the fairy tale aspect to the Bard by basing it on Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which Lucas called the funniest love story he ever saw.
Strange Magic is a story that takes place in the very much fantastical world of pixies, elves, trolls, goblins and more. The land is split up into the bright world of the pixies and the dark realm, ruled over by the perpetually angry Bog King (Alan Cumming). When the film starts, we meet our hero, the Princess Marianne (Evan Rachel Wood) hopelessly in love and ready to marry her handsome lover Roland (Sam Palladio). That all ends when she catches him cheating her on before their wedding and breaks everything off.
Marianne then becomes a free spirit, who hates love and just wants to have adventures. She also has no intention of ever getting married again, despite her father almost insisting she make up with Roland. Meanwhile, her sister Dawn (Meredith Anne Bull) is in love with almost every boy that comes along, except for her best friend Sunny (Elijah Kelley), who is hopelessly in love with her. This all leads to Roland sending Sunny into the dark forest to find the missing Sugar Plum Fairy (Kristen Chenoweth) and find the mysterious love potion to force Marianne to love him again.
Oh yeah, the entire thing is a musical. I don’t mean it is a movie with a lot of songs, like Gnomio and Juliet, I mean this is a musical where the characters sing their songs, more like Moulin Rouge.
So, does it work?
It does, kind of, especially if you are a 12-year-old girl. My young son found the overuse of songs to be annoying and my wife felt that it was too loaded with sugar to be enjoyable. Both are right. The movie is so full of sugar, you might fear you are becoming a diabetic just by watching it. The Strange Magic of the title is not so much about the love potion as it is about the real magic of love. However, I could only imagine 12-year-old girls who feel that love is a truly magical thing to be enamored by the story.
The animation is beautiful. The last animated film LucasFilm created was Rango, which looked amazing. This one is no less inspired. It reminds me a lot of Epic, but I feel that it will end up just as disappointing at the box office when all is said and done. The singing is nice, and some of the songs inspired, but this is a movie that probably won’t find an audience until it hits home video and then just for younger girls.
It isn’t a bad movie by any means, but there really isn’t too much there for most of the audience.