BLU-RAY REVIEW: THE HOUSE OF MAGIC 3D / CERT: U / DIRECTORS: BEN STASSEN, JEREMY DEGRUSON / SCREENPLAY: JAMES FLYNN, DOMINIC PARIS, BEN STASSEN / STARRING: MURRAY BLUE, DOUG STONE, GEORGE BABBIT, GRANT GEORGE, SHANELLE GRAY / RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 17TH
There is something to be said for having a heart; a film with a brimming core can make one instantly look past all else and fall in love with it. No more is this the case than with animation, think of Pixar’s best output or the incomparable work of Studio Ghibli, those studios deal in films with heart, warmth and emotion beneath their animated sparkle. Indeed animated features nowadays are expected to look fantastic but the competition dictates that the characters and plot be almost as polished. However, as we said at the start, heart can mean a great deal and whilst Belgian-American-French production The House of Magic 3D (also known as Thunder and the House of Magic) boasts a simplistic narrative, it comes with a rare amount of genuine joy that will please all ages.
The plot sees a ginger cat (later named Thunder- voiced by Murray Blue) abandoned at the side of the road; scared and lost he looks for a home and finds a rather dark looking old house. This house belongs to a rather eccentric but kindhearted old magician named Lawrence (Doug Stone), who is surrounded by all manner of magical toys, critters and trinkets. But all is not well when Lawrence’s calculating estate agent nephew Daniel (Grant George) comes snooping. The plot is pretty standard in set-up and many may notice similarities to films like Bolt. There is also the usual sub-plot of the newcomer (Thunder) being given a hard time by locals (grouchy rabbit Jack and his friend Maggie the Mouse) not wanting to be out shadowed (ala Toy Story). That being said, in spite of a few clichés, this film is directed towards a pure family market and when it comes to magical moments, it offers plenty of its own.
The film’s cast of characters are not the deepest but each one is eminently likable and kids may have a hard time choosing their favourite (although the speechless little light bulb man, Edison, has to be a top choice). Thunder is voiced well but sparingly by Blue and mostly it is the smoothly lovely animation that does a lot of the talking. Thunder makes a fine lead to the film and despite some meaner moments, watching Jack (George Babbit) and Maggie (Shanelle Gray) change their opinion of Thunder is surprisingly effective. Lawrence is a brilliant human centre to the story - think the zaniness of Doc Emmett Brown meets the happiness of Mister Geppetto and while his estate agent nephew is not the most memorable villain, he has his crazed moments. The characters, like the plot, don’t reinvent the wheel but they work well in a very sweet and colourful film.
From a brilliant Halloween-esque haunting scene to some excellent 3D thrills, this house is visually majestic. There are nice messages of old school entertainment being timeless and an idea of embracing your childlike delight. There are a few touching moments in the film pertaining to finding a real family and even when the film feels familiar it doesn’t hammer home its points or rely on lazy humour. Ramin Djawadi’s generous score backs a rather nostalgic little film that is littered with some surprising (and older) popular music. The House of Magic 3D reminds one of A Monster in Paris 3D, in that it is not anything that pushes animated boundaries but offers a great big warm centre that will make it an absolute winner with kids and adults will be smiling along with them. Lovely entertainment.