Strange Magic: George Lucas’ Animated Fantasy Scores on Visuals but Fails Hard on Song Choices [Review]

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Like everyone else I assumed Star Wars creator George Lucas had shunned society and was hiding on some man made space station with his Scrooge McDuck pile of gold after selling his legacy to Disney. That may still be the case but somewhere along the ride he wrote and produced an animated musical with fairies and goblins.

Goblins, elves, fairies and imps, and their misadventures sparked by the battle over a powerful potion: Strange Magic is directed by seven time Academy Award winning sound engineer Gary Rydstrom from a story by Star Wars creator George Lucas who also produces. The film stars Evan Rachel Wood, Alan Cumming, Kristin Chenowith, Maya Rudolph, Alfred Molina and Elijah Kelly.

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The two leads played are played by Alan Cumming and Evan Rachel Wood who are both great singers and I like the idea of incorporating more modern songs into animated films. The Book of Life did this to wonderful effect but somewhere along the way Strange Magic wears out its welcome and the occasional bursting into song winds up feeling uncomfortably forced. I found my inner powerful woman bursting out of my man body when Marianne (Wood) starts singing Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Stronger’ to the guy who she caught cheating on their wedding day but then it just got weird from that point forward. Yes more weird than my inner powerful woman bursting from my man body.

Cumming plays the villain and he has a great voice with all of that Broadway experience. I really liked the use of shadows when they would slowly reveal his character Bog. The production is quite spectacular but we shouldn’t expect anything less than stellar with Lucasfilm involved. Not to mention the director has won seven freaking Academy Awards in the sound categories.

Director Gary Rydstrom had pitched Strange Magic as Beauty & The Beast where the Beast never changes and I like that concept. The love plot twist was a clever device that helps the film stand apart from the rest of the pack. Lucas mentioned that this movie was made for his daughters and had said that if Star Wars was made for 12-year-old boys that Strange Magic was for 12-year-old girls. I think if that was his intention than he truly has succeeded here because the fairy character Marianne is a very strong female lead.

STRANGE MAGIC - 2015 FILM STILL - Marianne (voice of Evan Rachel Wood) and Bog King (voice of Alan Cumming) - Photo Credit: LucasFilm  (Strange Magic © & TM 2014 Lucasfilm Ltd.  All Rights Reserved.)
STRANGE MAGIC – 2015 FILM STILL – Marianne (voice of Evan Rachel Wood) and Bog King (voice of Alan Cumming) – Photo Credit: LucasFilm (Strange Magic © & TM 2014 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.)

So why does Strange Magic fall short? The music distracts and subtracts from the story. Lucas had said that he originally had several Beatles songs in mind for the film but simply couldn’t afford them. LIAR! As you sit atop your throne of Imperial gold…. So instead we get Burt Bacharach and Lady Gaga. You bastard.

The fantasy world that Lucas has created here is very intriguing and visually gorgeous but I think the choice to turn this one into a full blown musical after cheaping out on song selections was a huge and costly mistake in the end.

Why you should see Strange Magic:

  1. The gorgeous animation produced by Lucasfilm.
  2. To hear the dude who played Nightcrawler sing evil goblin rock opera.
  3. Because George Lucas made an animated kids’ fantasy film – isn’t enough for you weirdos? Does it matter if it’s bad?

Why You Shouldn’t See Strange Magic:

  1. The music choices get cringe worthy. I thought I’d like fairies singing Kelly Clarkson then I realized I was wrong. Dead wrong.
  2. The songs only get worse as the film goes on.
  3. Unless you’re a 12-year-old girl or the daughter of George Lucas than this movie was simply not made for you.
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