For children aged between 5 and 8 only, The House Of Magic will be a decent enough way to pass the time.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
I’ll say this for The House Of Magic, if nothing else, it’s not bad in any respect. You know that I have seen a lot of animated kids’ films so far this year and you are likely well aware that I found many of them to be of middling quality at best and straight up “OH GOD, MY EYES” at worst. The House Of Magic slips firmly into the first of those two categories, much like Rio 2 with the exception that it has very few genuine high points like Rio 2 did. It does have charm, though, and I can definitely see a version of myself from just over a decade ago that would have been either enraptured or, at least, more than engaged with the material on display. It’s not a bad film, it’s just a wholly unremarkable one that does nothing new and nothing particularly interesting with its set-up and existence.
Said set-up involves a cat abandoned by his family when they move house. After stumbling around the neighbourhood for a while, he finds himself drawn to an old broken down house, home to aging magician Lawrence and his enchanted contraptions. Lawrence turns out to be a bit of a softy for cute little cats such as our hero, so he takes the poor thing in and dubs him Thunder. And though Thunder makes fast friends with Lawrence and his various enchanted contraptions, he draws the hatred of Dylan the rabbit and Maggie the mouse who are worried that Thunder will end up usurping their master’s love and kicking them to the curb. One of their attempts to remove Thunder from the equation ends up putting Lawrence in the hospital, which Lawrence’s manipulative and conniving real-estate agent cousin Daniel uses to trick him into selling the house so that Daniel can make a tidy profit out of it. Forced to keep Thunder around in order to use Daniel’s cat allergies to their advantage, all of the house’s inhabitants have to team up with one another in order to drive out Daniel and any potential buyers in order to keep their home.
That summary is basically my opinion on The House Of Magic. It is what it is and nothing more. It hits the beats you’re expecting, makes the jokes that you’re expecting, makes a play for the heart it would probably have if it weren’t so lazy and thuddingly predictable in its design and execution. None of it’s bad, it’s just passable. The film rises above passable once, in a scene where Thunder and the house’s residents decide to use the haunted tag that the place has been saddled with as license to utterly terrify a pair of repo men who Daniel has hired. It’s genuinely a fair bit of fun and shows an interest and effort that the film lacks for the remaining 80 of its 85 minutes. Voice acting is alright, the guy who plays Daniel is able to get a lot of mileage out of the allergy trait and everyone’s at least putting in some effort, but it’s nothing to write home about. Animation is stiff, for the most part, which works as long as nothing human-like goes on at which point the low corner-cutting budget is put on display for all to see. The art style is very bright and colourful but lacking in detail and, again, noticeably low-budget. The 3D attempts to be justified by having multiple moments where the focus on everything except the centre of the screen drops and something pops out in a way that makes it very clear that this wasn’t exactly designed to be watched in 2D (like I did do because 3D and my seeing glasses don’t go together), and some extended POV shots which should suitably thrill kids who still somehow find 3D fascinating.
I know you’re used to me writing reviews long enough for the seasons to change by the time you’ve finished reading them when it comes to animation, but, again, I got nothing for this one, folks. It’s OK. It is an animated film aimed at kids between the ages of 5 and 8. If there were kids in my screening, I’d instead be reporting on how they found the film, but there weren’t any and I was basically the only one in there. So I can only speculate as to whether they’d like it, and my guess is “yeah, I can see it.” Again, it’s not bad in any way shape or form (well, maybe with the egregious 3D) and there’s still a bit of charm poking through the otherwise lazy construction. If I was a decade or so younger, I could see myself liking it. Not loving it, but liking it.
As it stands, I was fully engaged twice. The first was during the aforementioned haunted house bit. The second was when I was tapping my toes, and bobbing my head from side-to-side, at “The Love Cats” by The Cure as it played over Thunder’s attempts to get into the titular house. So, if you want to get your kids into The Cure at an early age (and, really, more kids could use an introduction to The Cure), I guess The House Of Magic is your one-stop shop. Otherwise, there are better animated kids’ films out there.