Shakespeare’s plays have been interpreted in many different ways. The newest one, beautifully animated, is George Lucas’ Strange Magic. It is based on Midsummer Night’s Dream but uses modern music to enhance the story. The story begins explaining the separation of two kingdoms.
There is the Fairy Kingdom, light and sunny, and the Dark Kingdom, dank and shadowed. The two realms are separated by a row of primrose flowers and grow between the light and shadows.
The ruler of the Fairy kingdom has two daughters. Marianna (voiced by Evan Rachel Wood) is spirited and adventurous. Dawn (voiced by Meredith Anne Bull) is rather a flirt and loves the fairy parties where she meets fairy boys.
The movie opens to Marianne’s wedding day. She is to marry Roland (voiced by Sam Palladio), who is the typical modern day version of Prince Charming: stuck on himself, worried more about his hair than actual events, and basically a coward under his shiny armor.
The marriage is halted with a bang when Marianne sees him kissing another fairy. Modern music enhances Marianne’s revenge scene, and it is very memorable (as opposed to their previous love song). Basically, she throws them out, which he very much deserves!
Meanwhile, Dawn’s best friend, an elf named Sunny (voiced by Elijah Kelley), wants to declare his love for Dawn. A plan is hatched to get a primrose peddle and take it to the Sugar Plum Fairy (voiced by Kristen Chenoweth), who is being held prisoner in the Dark Forest. The king of the Dark Forest, a cockroach-looking evil fairy named Bog (voiced by Alan Cumming), gets wind of creatures from the sunny kingdom in his domain and the audience learns that he has a painful past and might not be all that evil.
This is George Lucas’ wheelhouse: great animation, no actual actors to deal with on set. The music is spectacular, a blending of generations of music that will melt your heart. Or at least make you love the love story.
It is a love story, but as the title suggests, strange. But it is a beautiful kind of strange. I watched with my five year old daughter, and she loved it. Eye-popping color and the musical interludes had her watching start to finish. On Blu-ray, it is simply breath taking.
It is almost a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but no spoilers. In addition to its initial tagline of Everyone Deserves to be Loved, another tagline could have been Things Aren’t Always What They Seem. And this is true, but if I say more, it would be a spoiler.
Highly recommended, for kids and adults alike. For any fan of musical, animation, and modern takes on classic tales, this is sure to be a classic in its own right.