STRANGE MAGIC is a strange film. Not just the movie itself – a musical fantasy inspired by William Shakespeare’s A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM – but nearly everything surrounding its release. It’s a Disney film, yet it’s not – the first film from George Lucas to follow the sale of Lucasfilm to The Walt Disney Studios, but released through Disney’s sometimes-used Touchstone Pictures label. It’s a Lucas film, yet it’s not – with the STAR WARS creator getting a “story by” credit, but screenplay and directorial duties falling on others, most notably Gary Rydstrom, a Skywalker Sound Designer whose credits include WRECK-IT RALPH, FINDING NEMO and TOY STORY. When I first covered the film here on THE ROCK FATHER last November, I commented on how the marketing was sorta old-school in that it came out of nowhere – and it looked really cool. But when the film came-and-went in January with little fanfare, I (like many) missed it until the DVD release in May – a 2015 home video release with no Blu-ray. Again, very strange, indeed.
Vibrant, colorful, and very much musical, this story of fairies, monsters and other mythical creatures is packed with re-workings of pop tunes from the past several decades, from Whitney Houston and Deep Purple, to the Four Tops, the Troggs, ELO and Elvis Presley. But it doesn’t really work, and that’s unfortunate.
Sure, STRANGE MAGIC captures a bit of the attention of my daughters (almost 3 and almost 6), but even they had issues staying enthralled through the entire film, completely unlike the creator’s STAR WARS Saga, or even recent Disney Animation Studios fare like FROZEN and BIG HERO 6 – both of which keep them glued to the screen from beginning to end.
Something is missing here… a bit of “magic” perhaps, and I can’t even really put my finger on what. While it’s possible that STRANGE MAGIC could one day amass a cult following and sing-along screenings down the line, it plays like a film that’s not really good, nor bad, but simply one that exists.