Musicals are hot among Hollywood producers. Frozen was a mega hit in 2013. Disney’s Into the Woods and Village Roadshow Pictures’ Annie opened last month, and, just this weekend, LucasFilm opened Strange Magic.
George Lucas’ inspiration for the latter is Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The basic premise is very much like the Bard’s fantastical play about fairies and the mischievous Puck, who uses a magic love potion to make unlikely lovers swoon. Strange Magic’s plot is very similar. It involves a king who wants his daughter Marianne to marry Roland, whom she dumps after catching him cheating with another fairy. She refuses her father’s pleas to forgive him, but Roland has a plan: Get a love potion from the Sugar Plum Fairy. The problem is that the fairy is being held captive by the Bog King, who lives in a castle in the Dark Forest (yep, a scary place). Roland sends his friend Sunny, who is hopelessly in love with Dawn (Marianne’s boy-crazy little sis), on this dangerous mission. Of course, the potion gets in the wrong hands (in Lucas’ version the Puck character is named Imp) and Dawn ends up in love with the evil Bog King.
The cast stars TV, film, and Broadway actors and singers. Alan Cumming (The Good Wife and Cabaret) stars as the film’s villain the Bog King. Broadway performer Kristin Chenoweth (Wicked) plays the Sugar Plum Fairy; Evan Rachel Wood (Pretty Persuasion) is the feisty Marianne; Imp is played by Brenda Chapman (the first woman to direct an animated feature for a major Studio, DreamWorks Animation’s The Prince of Egypt).
The film, released by Touchstone Pictures, is said to be for Lucas’ three daughters. Star Wars was for 12-year-old boys, this one is for 12-year-old girls. Overall, critics have been bashing the film: Rafer Guzman of Newsday says the film is “a noxious cauldron of ingredients that shouldn’t have been mixed: fairies, Shakespeare and classic rock.” The Hollywood Reporter says the film, grossing $5.5 million in its first weekend, had one of the worst openings for a film opening in more than 3,000 locations. Still I took a look at the film’s Facebook page and many parents and kids love the flick. Several parents metaphorically thumbed their noses at the critics, saying “What do critics know? My ________ (insert kid, grandkid) loves it.” While I have yet to see this flick, I find it hard to believe it could be worse than Frozen, which was a huge box office hit, but painful to watch—at least for me—until the final quarter of the film. Perhaps, it would have been more fun if I had had a child to watch it with. Anyone have a rental for Strange Magic?