Movie Review: Strange Magic

Last week during my visit to Skywalker Ranch (Is she ever going to stop talking about that? I got to screen the new film from the mind of George Lucas, Strange Magic.


We had the unique privilege of watching the film in Skywalker Ranch's state-of-the-art Stag Theater with George Lucas himself.

Insufferable. I told you. Also, please notice the familiar head of shock-white hair right at about the center in the photo below. I know. Shut up.

Skywalker-Ranch-theater-my-big-fat-cuban-family copy

So, first of all, it's a musical. Deriving, it seemed to me, partly from Lucas' 1973 American Graffiti and Marius De Vries' arrangements for Moulin Rouge. That was a surprising and pleasant surprise. 

The songs are everything from oldies like "Tell Him" and "I'll Never Fall In Love Again" to a couple from BeyoncΓ© and Lady Gaga. "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" becomes a pretty funny running gag throughout the story.


It's a (very) loose adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream, mostly because there are love potions and star crossed lovers and weird infatuations happening. Strange Magic tells the story of sister fairies Marianne (Evan Rachel Wood) and Dawn (Meredith Anne Bull).

I don't doubt that Marianne was so named to make good use of the Four Season's song of the same name, but that's not important right now.

A comic fairy tale that mostly takes place in the Dark Forest over which the Bog King (Alan Cumming) presides and has made it his life's mission to eradicate the primrose flowers from which a particular love dust is created. Of course, as you can already guess, the elf, Sunny (Elijah Kelley) is tasked with breaking into the Dark Forest, finding the Sugarplum Fairy (Kristin Chenowith) and talking her into making some love potion that things start to get a little nutty.


Truthfully, I didn't love the film for the first half. It wasn't until Marianne sheds her fairy princess daydream about the caddish and handsome boy-fairy, Roland (Sam Palladio) and takes on a tough punk-rockery-warrior-fairy look that I was fully engaged. 


And I was happy that most of the action took place in the Dark Forest because the creatures there were much more fun than the humanoid fairies.


The characters in the Dark Forest are just what you'd expect from the mind of George Lucas. A cross between the inhabitants of the Mos Eisley Cantina (<--see Star Wars, Episode IV A New Hope) and Jaba the Hut's palace. The un-named mischief-making-rodent-thing reminding me strongly of Salacious Crumb (again from Star Wars, Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back). I don't know if that was director Gary Rydstrom's intent, but the striking comparison between the two made it much more fun for me, personally.


Favorite character? Hands down, Sunny the Elf. That may or may not be because I'm kind of smitten with Elijah Kelley right now.


The soundtrack keeps the movie flowing and there are enough funny bits - the mushroom telephone line, especially - to keep youngsters engaged. 

Strange Magic was nothing like I expected. Visually and technically beautiful. The songs helping to carry the plot to a wonderfully romantic twist at the end.

However, it's the moral of the story: that true love trumps infatuation every time, that makes it worth the price of admission. 

"The course of true love never did run smooth." ~Shakespeare

Strange Magic opens today, January 23rd in theaters everywhere.

{I was invited to pre-screen the movie by Disney and Touchstone Pictures. All opinions are my own.}