Saturday, July 18, 2015

Strange Magic Review

Strange magic indeed...

As we move forward into the Month of Misses, we've encountered a bizarre movie indeed. Stop me if you've heard this one before, but we have a pop opera adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare and written by George Lucas. This is a match made in heaven that no one wanted and even fewer thought would be good. Shock of all shocks, it's not good, and is actually more admirable for its sheer weirdness than anything else.

Our story revolves around Marianne, a fairy that is all swooned over in love for the handsome Roland, until she finds out that he was cheating on her. Instantly, she changes her entire demeanor into hardened warrior princess and says "Screw you!" to love forever. Her sister meanwhile is still head over heels for any guy she meets, except her best friend Sunny, an elf. After a whole lot of sub plots and slapstick, Sunny discovers how to make a love potion, gives it to Marianne's sister, but the evil Bog King kidnaps her, so it's up to Marianne to save her and also do like four other things that I can hardly remember and wow this plot has too many elements going on in it. I mean, seriously, I know this is a kid's adaptation of one of Shakespeare's densest plays, but you can't do it all in a single 90 minute movie. 

Actually, I might be jumping the gun a bit when I say it's an adaptation of Midsummer Night's Dream, as in it has very little, if anything, to do with the play. The play centers around lovers, marriage, mystical beings in the woods, or at least that's what Strange Magic only thinks its about. Now I will say it's been quite a while since I've read AMND, but I'm very certain that there was no evil Bog King, two kingdoms divided by love and loveless, and definitely no forced comedic humor. Shakespeare's humor, and the script for that matter, was unique for being written entirely in verse. There was not a single bit of prose throughout the whole play, so every line was in iambic pentameter, rhymed, and was exceptionally flowery and doused with imagery. Strange Magic decides to have everyone speak with incredibly modern dialogue, attitudes, and tropes. 

So as an adaptation, it doesn't work. It takes so many liberties with the original script that I think it's an adaptation in name only, and I mean that wuite literally. The events of the movie take place in a single night, and when the stakes are this low, it's hard to become invested in the characters. In AMND, there was no earth shattering plot for the fate of two kingdoms hanging in the balance. Hell, it was the play where a character named Bottom walks around for the majority of the play with a donkey for a head. It's not the most serious play in world. Yet when you play the comedy as drama, it's not as effective, and all of the problems with the script, writing, and dialogue become even more apparent. 

That's not even getting into this movie as a pop opera, or jukebox musical to some. For those of you that are unaware, a pop opera/jukebox musical is a musical that is composed entirely of songs from other artists. There are hardly, if any, original songs in the show and is a Frankenstein combination of artists, genres, and motifs strung together by a single central theme. Rock of Ages is composed of 80's rock songs, Mama Mia! from Abba songs, Across the Universe from Beatles songs, you get the idea. And I do not like pop opera's or jukebox musical because usually the show is a slave to the music choices. 

The plot has to be oriented around the music, but the music chosen for the show or movie was never designed to convey an over arching story. Most of these songs were just meant to be a single for an artist that sounds pretty on its own. You can try to piece a story together through these songs, but that's easier said than done when the songs give you legitimately nothing to work with. A musical is meant to convey a story through music and song, and when the lyrics were not designed to convey a story, then it's impossible to work with. Strange Magic tries to tie songs around the theme of love, but none of them gel. The songs are just slapped on and expected to gel. 

Because the music doesn't work and is sung rather poorly too, the plot can't keep itself afloat. It tries to do too many things at once. There's the main story with Marianne rescuing her sisters, but then we have Sunny trying to get his love potion back from a gerbil-thing, the Bog King dealing with Marianne's sister, who is now in love with him thanks to the love potion, Roland trying to force Marianne to fall in love with her, the Sugar Plum Fairy being trapped in the Bog King's jail, the Bog King's mother trying to be a Jewish mother and find him a wife, there's just way too much stuff going on during the movie. If it was just a simple save the princess story with a female twist, that would be sufficient and even a little bit fresh, but instead it tries to throw in everything all at once. 

Then we have the animation, which looks fine, but the character models just look wrong. I can't tell exactly why the models make me squeem so much, but I think it has to do with their faces. The characters have weird looking facing with odd angles, odd expressions, and they just don't look natural to me. They look fake in every sense of the word. Watching these character models dance just look wrong. This is 2015, but this is something that we would be getting out of the early 2000's. 

I will say that there are some things that are good in this movie. The instrumentals are usually pretty good. There aren't any lyrics to them, but we get little quick versions of Bad Romance, Barracuda, People Are Strange, and other pretty decent little ditties that sound better than the actual full songs. And even though I just dissed the animation a bit, some of the settings do look pretty like 5% of the time, so there's something I guess...

Strange Magic is a weird little movie and will probably be the weirdest movie I talk about all year. It's just a bizarre combination that no one wanted, no one cared about, and it bombed hard at the box office. However, it's not offense or even terrible to kids. It's just kind of bad in all of the inoffensive ways. Like, I don't want this movie to be attacked by trolls and burned at the stake, but it's just disposable in every sense of the word. If it did poorly, oh well. If it did well, that's okay. I just don't care enough to muster even a bit of enthusiasm to this film. But next time George Lucas decides to write a Shakespearean musical, I want to see him do Othello as a metal opera! It could happen. 


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