I kind of get the feeling that the soundtrack to Strange Magic was created first, and then a story — which the advertising tells us is “from the mind of George Lucas” — was crafted around whichever songs were chosen. I mean, one of the songs used is “C’mon Marianne,” which I wager is the reason that its protagonist’s name is Marianne. It seemed like so many sequences were created just so that a specific song could fit, which is the opposite way that a movie like this one should be created. Make a good story first, and then find songs that fit. Tweak where necessary.
Marianne (voice of Evan Rachel Wood) is our lead. She, a fairy princess, begins the film ready to marry Roland (Sam Palladio), but on the wedding day finds that he’s cheating on her, and instantly decries love. “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again, she sings, despite five minutes earlier singing “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” Whatever. Some time passes, and Roland continues to pester her. Meanwhile, a small elf, Sunny (Elijah Kelley), falls in love with Marianne’s sister, Dawn (Meridith Anne Bull).
The fairies and elves live in the nice part of this universe. They’re bordered by the Dark Forest, which is ruled by the Bog King (Alan Cumming), who is the type of villain who sits on a throne all day and sings about how evil he is. No, really. He’s also captured the Sugar Plum Fairy (Kristin Chenoweth), the only one who can make a love potion. Since Roland and Sunny both want a princess, they devise a plan to get a love potion and force the love. As anyone who’s ever seen a movie or TV show involving a love potion knows, that isn’t going to go over well. It leads to trouble for everyone involved.
I feel like I’ve already said the word “love” far too many times, but if you think that’s the case, you’re definitely going to want to skip Strange Magic, whose main and really only theme is the “L” word. No, the other-other “L” word, Scott Pilgrim, fans. Love is on the minds of every character at seemingly all times, and if that sounds like it’s going to get on your nerves, you’d better skip out on Strange Magic.
Other people who are going to want to skip out on Strange Magic are those who don’t want to see a film that feels like a lackluster combination of Beauty and the Beast and Frozen, two other Disney properties which are both better than this film. There are elements taken from both of these movies — the sisterly love and the whole ugly “beast” parts — and if that’s going to anger you, I’m warning you right now.
These aren’t really the only problems with Strange Magic. The plot is often a mess, particularly because it feels like it was created around the songs, as I mentioned earlier. The characters often change direction at random, too. But I didn’t hate this movie. One of its best attributes is the animation, which is, at times, great. It’s colorful, rich, and looks wonderful for most of its running time. You can’t take anything away from the animation team, even if what they’re animating isn’t exactly the best story in the world.
We also have to give credit to the actors. They give life to their characters quite well, and it’s not like they can’t sing, either. The soundtrack, which you can buy on its own, is probably more worthwhile than the movie. All of the songs — as far as I know — were licensed; no original songs were written and performed for the movies. But they’re performed well and since the story was (probably) written around them, they fit in perfectly. There are also a good number of humorous moments scattered throughout the film, as the film lives up to the “strange” part of its name and delivers some oddball scenes to keep you from getting too comfortable.
Strange Magic isn’t going to set the world on fire, and it does at times feel like a mediocre and sloppy knockoff of Frozen and Beauty and the Beast, but I didn’t dislike watching it. The soundtrack is good, the animation is great, and the voice acting works. Sure, the plot is a mess, characters change direction on a whim, and the whole “love” theme is hit on the head so hard that it probably got a concussion, but I didn’t hate Strange Magic, and that’s as nice as I can be about it.