'Strange Magic': Film Review

Strange Magic Still - H 2014
Lucasfilm Ltd.

Strange Magic Still - H 2014

This ill-conceived take on Shakespeare's fairy tale makes for one bad "Dream."

Executive-produced by George Lucas, the animated take on "Midsummer Night's Dream" features Alan Cumming, Evan Rachel Wood, Kristin Chenoweth and Maya Rudolph.

Strange Magic, an animated riff on A Midsummer Night's Dream that took root in the imagination of executive producer George Lucas, would have been more aptly named Strained Magic.

A shrill, garish hodgepodge of familiar elements from other animated vehicles (most evidently 2013's Epic), there's virtually nothing about this forced, fractured fairy tale that feels remotely fresh or involving.

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Given that it will be going up against the infinitely more charming and accomplished Paddington at the box office this weekendthe Lucasfilm production is going to be hard-pressed to best its previous foray into feature animation, 2008's similarly stilted Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Set in a pair of enchanted worlds far, far away, the story (as much as there is one) concerns the primrose flowers that separate both lands. While their petals are used to make potent love potions over on the Fairy Kingdom side, where the feisty Marianne (Evan Rachel Wood) and her flighty sister Dawn (newcomer Meredith Anne Bull) cavort, they're targeted for destruction by the Bog King (Alan Cumming), who presides over the Dark Forest with a cold heart.

The bulk of the plotting that follows is primarily provided by snatches and snippets of well-known pop songs performed at the drop of a petal by its characters, voiced by a roster of squandered talents also including Kristin Chenoweth, Maya Rudolph, Alfred Molina and Elijah Kelley.

With Gary Rydstrom's frenetic direction attempting to cover for that mere suggestion of a script he co-wrote with David Berenbaum and Irene Mecchi (Lucas receives story credit), it very quickly becomes apparent that there's simply no "there" there. Stylistically speaking, even the animated lead characters have about as much warmth and definition as gaming system avatars.

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As for the week's worth of karaoke night tunes awkwardly crammed into the soundtrack, what might have been intended to summon the irresistible song-and-dance effervescence of Happy Feet comes a lot closer to conjuring up Cop Rock.

Production companies: Lucasfilm
Cast: Alan Cumming, Evan Rachel Wood, Elijah Kelley, Kristin Chenoweth, Maya Rudolph, Alfred Molina
Director: Gary Rydstrom
Screenwriters: David Berenbaum, Irene Mecchi, Gary Rydstrom
Producer: Mark S. Miller
Executive producers: George Lucas, Kiri Hart, Jason McGatlin
Editor: Chris Plummer
Composer: Marius de Vries
Casting directors: David Rubin, Richard Hicks, Lindsay Perlman

Rated PG, 99 minutes