REVIEW: THE HOUSE OF MAGIC / CERT: U / DIRECTOR: BEN STASSEN, JÉRÉMIE DEGRUSON / SCREENPLAY: BEN STASSEN, JAMES FLYNN, DOMINIC PARIS / STARRING: MURRAY BLUE, GEORGE BABBIT, SHANELLE GRAY, EUGENE LEVY, GRANT GEORGE / RELEASE DATE: JULY 25TH
When Thunder the cat is abandoned by his owners, he seeks refuge in the home of Lawrence, an ageing stage magician who entertains children at a local hospital. Embraced by the old man’s horde of clockwork automata but mistrusted by his pets, rabbit Jack and mouse Maggie, he and they nevertheless must band together to prevent Lawrence’s odious nephew Daniel from selling the house out from under him.
Unlike many animated films nowadays that are made to appeal to as large an age range as possible, The House of Magic is very much aimed at children. However, this doesn’t necessarily need to be a bad thing. While its very simple story lacks the necessary twists and turns to keep adults completely engaged, kids should respond very well to the inventive methods the animals dream up to scare away potential buyers of the house.
The human characters are a little one note, but it’s the animals who are the focus of the story and each of them has a distinct, if uncomplicated personality. Thunder is sweet and lovable without being overtly cutesy (no Puss in Boots-style saucer eyes here) and as he is effectively a child himself, little kids will see something in him to relate to and find him engaging as an underdog hero.
The house itself is a lavishly designed labyrinth of wonder, somehow at once gloomy and Gothic yet lively and colourful. Made in 3D rather than converted in post production, the visual spectacle truly benefits from the extra dimension, providing greater depth (figuratively and literally) to the images and a greater sense of scale for sharp angles. Although it is occasionally utilised in the slightly gimmicky way of having things thrown at the screen, such occurrences never feel forced and fit in with the natural progression of events.
For the most part, the prevailing atmosphere is one of adventure rather than peril, and the message of the importance of trusting each other and working together is a good one for children to take away. Although things get a little intense at the film’s climax – one occurrence in particular will likely cause some viewers to balk at its use – the action is more exciting than outright scary.
Director Ben Stassen (A Turtle’s Tale, Fly Me to the Moon) has crafted a film that kids will enjoy endless repeat viewings of, and while their parents may get a little bored, they could certainly do a lot worse.
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10