Lucasfilm Ltd. and Disney’s “Strange Magic” is another of the many releases in 2015 I was hoping to love going in, but just couldn’t. “Strange Magic” defeats itself before we even reach the second half of its achingly simple storyline, not because of its simplicity and abundantly detailed animation, but because of its constant musical numbers. It’s not enough the characters sing every five minutes, but the musical numbers eventually blur in to one another resembling more droning white noise than characters expressing their feelings. It inevitably begins to feel like the writers are just trying to stretch an hour long narrative in to a hundred minute film.
The musical numbers are comprised of whatever Disney could get the rights to. So sometimes we’re treated to a wonderful gem like “Three Little Birds” from Bob Marley, and other times we get “I Got a Feeling” from Black Eyed Peas. It all ranges from catchy to irritating, almost like the writers are purposely testing audience’s tolerance for the bipolar playlist. I wish I could bash the narrative, but its simplicity will likely attract a wider audience as James Cameron’s “Avatar” did. You could easily stop the movie mid way, go back to it a month later, and not have to play catch up at all. Evan Rachel Wood’s performance is spirited as the enthusiastic fairy princess Marianne who is set to wed fairy king Roland. When she learns he’s been unfaithful to her, she grows bitter and hateful toward the concept of love, which somehow transforms her in to a powerful sword wielding warrior.
Roland hopes to win back Marianne for the purposes of marrying her and rebuilding his army. When singing to her doesn’t convince her that he honestly loves her, he manipulates lovelorn elf Sunny to visit the Sugar Plum Fairy and steal a magic petal from the evil Bog King, which will create a love potion to drug Marianne. Angered by the theft of his petals, the Bog King (Alan Cumming) steals Marianne’s irritating sister Dawn, and threatens to hurt her if the potion isn’t given to him before moon down. While captured, Dawn re-invigorates the Bog King’s idea of love, singing non-stop, and slowly convincing him that love is a wonderful idea. Dawn sings a lot, and seems to use it as torture, though the writers likely intended it as a means of conveying her optimism and unbridled romanticism.
Much like the Bog King, I eventually couldn’t take anymore and just wanted Dawn to stop singing and soak in the silence for a while. But “Strange Magic” never offers that luxury. When it’s not hammering us to death with pop and rock songs, characters are prone to shouting and screeching at one another, creating an illusion of activity where there is none. The animation is incredible for “Strange Magic,” and it’s armed with very tight direction. I also love fantasy films, especially those about fairies, imps, goblins, and battles of good and evil, but “Strange Magic” just completely botches any potential it has trying hard to pander to audiences. Sans the relentless musical numbers, “Strange Magic” may have been just a sub-par fantasy outing.