Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The House of Magic (2013/14)

Belgian director Ben Stassen returns with another animated offering. If you didn't know, Stassen is the guy behind the Sammy the Turtle films (films I cannot vouch for) and, hence, is responsible for some truly nightmarish imagery such as this:
*Shudder* Hopefully you never got to see that on a big screen (as it moved and spoke). Fortunately, 'The House of Magic' is an improvement over those films making it easier to watch, even if it is quite generic and utterly unremarkable.

The film starts off with our protagonist, a cat who later gets named Thunder, being left on the side of the street after his previous owners no longer want him. He ends up being chased towards an old house which is supposedly haunted but is actually inhabited by an old magician and his inventions. Thunder gets taken in by the old man but soon learns that the man's nephew (who is allergic to cats - what an original concept to use in such a film(!)) seeks to sell the house. So now Thunder and his house buddies must put an end to the scheming.

The film clearly doesn't have too much of a budget, but it appears to do well for what it has. It obviously can't have the polish or quality heavyweights Disney, Pixar, and Dreamworks can give their animations. For what it is, though, it is perfectly acceptable. However, I don't think it needed to include all those chases and such. The sorts of moments that are only there because this film has the option to be viewed in '3D' (and because it needs to pad out the running time). Another issues concerning the animation as that the film appears to drop dead any time the characters have a discussion. Though that may simply be because the writing was (how shall I say this)... forgettable. What I did find to be interesting was that the film was more confident/competent when it came to scenes of danger. They came across effectively done, generally. Well, at least for what I was expecting.

The big trouble with the film is that it can't present you with an engaging story nor does it give you interesting characters. When the characters talk, as I said before, the film seems to die. The dull, empty vessels that are standing in for characters (as well as some fulfilling the various stereotype roles) feel so robotic as they spout poor lines of dialogue that only exist to spell out the obvious and display how uncomfortable the film is with these scenes. I think, if it thought it had a choice, it'd rather just animate stuff.

In the end, the film is the type of thing you may have seen many times before. It plays things by-the-numbers and presents nothing different or thoughtful. But it didn't prove to be difficult watching and I came out of it feeling indifferent towards it. I've seen better, I've seen worse. It seems like it'll appeal to the small kids it is aimed at. I'll leave it at that.

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