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Strange World (Film Review)

2 min read
Strange World (2022)

As 's 61st animated feature, there's arguably a weighty sense of expectation on the head of . Boasting a stellar A-list cast fronted by the likes of , , and , an expedition into the adventurous unknown falls slightly short of the studio epic that audiences might expect. Following three generations of the Clade family, the future of Avalonia depends on a magical crop that holds the power to convert energy into power. Gyllenhaal stars as family man Searcher, hoping to leave a better legacy to his son Ethan (Jaboukie-Young White) than his father Jaeger () did for him.

The three-generational bond between grandfather, father and son is the key anchoring point of Strange World, which isn't exactly a unique outing for . Classics such as The Lion King, Finding Nemo, and Pinocchio all examine facets of the father-son relationship, and Strange World adds an elder perspective to its triage. It's heartwarming to follow the three trying to figure each other out, each lost in their own ideas of who they are told they're supposed to be. Searcher's wife Meridian (Gabrielle Union) routinely acts as the stable glue that holds them all together, countered by the forthright leader of Avalonia Callisto Mal (Lucy Liu). As with all Disney capers, watching the group get stuck into a delicious-looking adventure is an enjoyable feat, with director Don Hall leading a team of animators that excel themselves and their craft. Each frame is more tantalising to look at than the next, best savoured on the biggest screen you can find.

In the midst of fantastic messaging surrounding love, family, and putting the environment first, it's difficult to say how Strange World will stack up in the long haul of Disney's legacy. Though there are a lot of good things wrapped up within it, the overall effect verges somewhere towards the forgettable. Sitting in line with the likes of The Incredibles, Lilo & Stitch, and Moana, the family dynamics of the Clades — while endearing — may not be enough to ascend to greater glory. The film does boast two adorable, ready-to-merchandise sidekicks, in the form of three-legged dog Legend and deathly-done-good blob Splat. Kids will be running to the nearest online shopping cart to get their hands on them, and in that vein alone, Disney have done what they always do best.

By the end of its 102-minute run, Strange World hasn't done a great deal to write home about — which isn't the best of circumstances for a review. easily out-voices all of his A-list counterparts, making him the shining star in a world where teenagers don't always know what's best. The pivot towards films that tackle hard-hitting climate changes in a palatable way may be a new norm for Disney's studios, but might need a little more gusto to push the warming warnings forward.

 

Strange World releases exclusively in cinemas on Wednesday 23rd November.