1. What’s it about?
Marianne (Evan Rachel Wood) is a fairy princess who is engaged to be married to Roland, a preening, arrogant, self-absorbed creep of a knight who is eager to be elevated to the status of prince and future king, and even more eager to command an army. When Marianne discovers that he’s not particularly interested in giving up his girlfriend on the side, she breaks it off and gives up on love. A musical training montage later, she is a tough and fearless warrior with no need for a man. Her flighty and flirty sister Dawn (Meredith Anne Bull) is all too eager for romance, a fact that troubles her helpful elf friend Sunny (Elijah Kelley), who harbors a serious crush on her. When Roland and Sunny conspire to acquire the Sugar Plum Fairy’s famous love potion as a solution to their problems, it puts the fairy kingdom on a collision course with the nearby Dark Forest and its ruler, the Bog King (Alan Cumming), whose opinion of love is just as cynical as Marianne’s.
2. Will my kids like it?
I think so. The story is entertaining and the characters likable, even the ugly goblins. A couple of the ugly goblins provide a lot of the funniest bits.
3. Will I like it?
Probably, or at least you’ll be able to stay in the same room with it when the kids want to re-watch it. It’s not a must-see “event” film, but it’s a reasonably pleasant diversion and should be popular on home video.
4. How’s the animation?
The world of Strange Magic is gorgeous, photo-realistic and full of wonderful magical detail. The characters are a bit less interesting; some of them look like they are from a different movie. The fairies are stylized and a bit cartoonish, while the elves are more realistic and edging toward the “uncanny valley” with their insistence on showing every hair, pore and freckle. The goblins and other denizens of the Dark Forest are imaginative and grotesque in various ways.
5. How’s the music?
Strange Magic is like an animated episode of Glee; the score is a greatest hits collection of love songs ranging from Elvis to Beyonce, basically playing to the Baby Boomers who are taking their grandkids to the movie. The songs are cleverly woven into a cohesive narrative by Music Director Marius DeVries, who did the same thing with Moulin Rouge, and the cast performs them well. You will most likely leave the theater humming one of the songs.
6. It says it’s inspired by Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream;” how close is it to the original?
Not at all. “Inspired by” is not “based on.” The only things from Shakespeare’s work are the idea of people falling in love due to a love potion and an imp running around with the potion causing inappropriate match-ups. Everything else is all original material.
7. When is the best time for a bathroom break?
When Sunny goes into the Dark Forest to find the Sugar Plum Fairy’s love potion, you have a few minutes to take care of business before he gets there.
8. Do we have to stay after the credits?
“Have to” is such a strong term. There is a mid-credits scene and another gag at the end, but both are just mildly-amusing little character bits, not anything that’s strictly necessary. Unlike, say, the Marvel movies, there’s nothing setting up a sequel or linking to another movie.
Strange Magic is a modest little children’s film, complete with a moral and a message, and expecting it to be more than that just because it’s from Lucasfilm is really a mistake. It’s not Star Wars, but it’s not trying to be. Taken on its own terms, it’s a fun little trifle.