I can see why people hated the movie. It got a lot of bad reviews, it was called unimaginative, the graphics are supposedly good but the story is supposedly terrible.
None of these reviews matter, because they are all wrong, and they remind me very much of the vitriol Jupiter Ascending got--beautiful visually, but bad story. When in fact there's nothing wrong with the story, really, aside from some minor editing issues. Same deal with Strange Magic. In fact, I have to say, it's actually REALLY refreshing, both in its humour (which works on several levels: worldbuilding, meta-knowledge, comedic beats, and genuinely quirky characters), and the way it uses tropes (beauty and the beast, but where the beast doesn't change! beauty who isn't exactly valued by the antagonist for her beauty! nagging parents! sisters! BFFs who fall in love! grumpy people who have been burned falling for each other! the villain becomes the love interest! it saves us a lot of time trying to justifying our ships by making them canon in the first place). I also love how the binary of Fairy Kingdom vs. Dark Forest isn't a versus so much as it presented as two sides of a whole, and the fairy princess learns to appreciate the Dark Forest, which she has an initially very bad experience with.
DID I MENTION THAT IT'S A JUKEBOX MUSICAL? And that the songs, which play at seemingly random times, ACTUALLY SAY SOMETHING ABOUT THE SCENE/CHARACTERS? There are DUETS that demonstrate the relationships/connections between the characters singing! SUGAR PIE HONEY BUUUUNNNNCCCHHHH!
The ultimate moral lesson of the film--that love is built on common ground and good chemistry, not on infatuation with the other person's looks (and that you don't get rewarded with love for doing certain things)--is possibly a bit too subtle, but I REALLY love the alternative masculinity presented in this film, contrasted against the toxic masculinity of the antagonist, who manages to pass as a good guy to most of the people within the film through manipulation. Get you a man who: can sing; has a DAD LOOK; knows how to be gentle; is given consequences when he does stupid things like lock away the fairy who made him the love potion he requested without giving her a chance to explain how he fucked up; learns from his mistakes. I know it's kind of a low bar but I was kind of impressed he remembered that he has to rescue his mother.
There are a couple of moments re: expectations which are also surprising to me, worked in as jokes, but somehow are also taken seriously that yes, this is a thing in this universe! it's not just a joke this is real life for them! It's all weirdly heteronormative, but I feel there are some characters you could imagine to be queer, and one character who I think reads as asexual.
I've already read complaints that there were too many subplots, but everyone's plans and arcs weave together really well. Marianne and Bog King's romance doesn't work without Sunny's crush on Dawn which doesn't get acted on without Roland's power hungry attempt to get Marianne. Most of the side characters are also delightful: Griselda as the Bog King's nagging mom who keeps trying to set him up; the Sugar Plum Fairy is HILARIOUS; Stuff and Thang as the incompetent lackeys. They add something to the script, and the script might have been poorer without them. (Although, I'm... still kind of shocked at the role the pixies play in helping Marianne train. Like, oh my god, is she really... batting at them... with her sword???)
There are a few things that I thought could have been improved on, such as the Sameface Syndrome that it has going on, but I still think there are some very slight differences between Marianne and Dawn's facial structure. They also missed the opportunity to make Marianne a truly plain girl, which would make Roland's philandering more plausible. The use of the kaleidoscope effects at the end are also pretty hideous, even though I KNOW, theoretically, it's supposed to refer to the fact that butterflies are referred to sa a kaleidoscope of butterflies. The voiceacting was a little off at times--Alan Cumming has this weird brogue slipped sometimes, and a couple of the characters have a couple of moments where they sound weirdly British. Still, the animation was quite top-notch--OH GOD THE WINGFIC! And how WELL DONE the WINGFIC!--and the body language of the characters was really great--at some point I said out loud, "well they're gonna have fairytale sex tonight."
My point is, Strange Magic is REALLY FUCKING GIRLY, and I suspect that reviewers panned it because, like Jupiter Ascending, Strange Magic is REALLY GIRLY and some people hate GIRLY FUN. George Lucas conceived of it as something for 12-yo girls to match Star Wars, but honestly, I think it's a VERY ADULT movie, like it's family-friendly in the way that there's humour and layers specifically for adults. And so much of the male characters' masculinity is in service or subordinate to the women of the film (like, gosh, while there isn't exactly gender parity, it's still more speaking female characters than the average film), and the one white-looking dude in the film is the antagonist who never gets a redemption arc. WHICH IS SO GREAT. So the only way you could pan this movie is if you missed or refused to acknowledge the ways it DOESN'T cleave to cishet bro sensibilities.
Anyways, someone tell me they also saw Strange Magic, because I don't want to suffer this earworm alone.
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