Voices of Jake Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid, Gabrielle Union, Lucy Liu, Jaboukie Young-White, Alan Tudyk, Karan Soni, Abraham Benrubi
“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
When Dorothy Gale enters Oz through the farmhouse door, leaving behind black-and-white Kansas, it’s a magical moment. Oz is a technicolor marvel full of strange creatures, whispering trees, beautiful witches, and talking lions. The contrast between drab Kansas and wonderful Oz is important. It’s the same contrast we get in Alice in Wonderland or Windsor McCay’s Little Nemo series. Strange World, Walt Disney Animation’s 61st feature film, is another in a long line of fantasies taking its hero into what is supposed to be an exciting new world. Its big mistake is making Avalonia, the world we begin with, more interesting than the strange world we will spend most of this movie in. Here, the hero’s name is Searcher Clade (Gyllenhaal), son of the legendary Jaeger Clade (Quaid), husband to Meridian Clade (Union), and father to Ethan Clade-Disney’s first openly gay teenage character. Searcher is revered by his neighbors for discovering a plant that turns Avalonia into a prosperous community, but when that plant shows signs of dying out, he and his family are thrust into action, leading them to the subterranean strange world of title. The three generations of Clade men, Jaeger, Searcher, and Ethan must figure out how to listen to and accept one another as they search for answers to save their world. Labeled a woke failure by some and a massive bomb at the box office, Strange World will likely find its place among films like The Black Cauldron or Home on the Range in Disney’s deep catalog. I like those films and I basically liked this one, though it is certainly mediocre. The strange world isn’t strange enough. It isn’t until the film’s final reveal that it becomes a little more interesting in hindsight. The characters are likable but with little romance, mystery, and no compelling villain, Strange World is never as exciting as it should be.
Walter Tyrone Howard (1)