Starring: Cinda Adams, George Babbit, Murray Blue
After being abandoned by his owners, a young cat called Thunder is forced to seek shelter from a storm and takes refuge in a house owned by an old magician which is home to many automatons and gizmos which the magician has managed to bring to life. The magician and his automatons happily accept Thunder as part of the family but the magician’s grumpy old rabbit named Jack refuses to accept Thunder as part of the household and plots to get rid of him. After an attempt by Jack to get rid of Thunder leads to the magician ending up in hospital, all the residents of the house are then forced to join forces to thwart the plans of his nasty nephew to sell the house.
In this day and age of Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks splashing out megabucks on their films we may have become used to having extremely high standards of animation. This is rightfully the case considering the budgets of some of the big animated films that come out these days, but it means the lower budget animated films can struggle to compete if they go for the same animation style when what should be most important are the story, script and characters. Well, admittedly The House of Magic does not excel with any of this, but the makers do a decent job of the animation with a limited budget and it is a story which may be pretty straight forward and light on substance, but it is a film with enough genuine charm and good intentions to be a very enjoyable and highly watchable experience.
Maybe if watching The House of Magic straight after a recent Pixar release the animation may look less than sharp, but that is not a problem and the animators decision to use POV shots may make the film look like a computer game at times, but it does add involvement, and I can imagine looks even better in 3D at the cinema.
While the animation may lack the depth and polish of bigger budget animated film, so too does the story and script; the film treads very safe ground in terms of its story and the main characters, but it is still highly enjoyable and many of the film’s set pieces are genuinely good fun. Admittedly the concept of talking animals and gizmos that come to life is hard to mess up, and while all the human characters are extremely clichéd, there is a genuine charm about the gizmos, especially a character called Edison, who is quite simply the cutest walking light bulb in film history. While the film’s main protagonist, a ginger kitten named Thunder, is highly likeable and his arrogance and self belief means he is not just lazily depicted as just cute, though of course for all cat lovers like me he is that too.
Being a low budget film and having a script a little rough around the edges works both in favour and against The House of Magic as a film; Characters do feel conventional and at the mercy of the narrative (particularly the human characters) and often lack the emotional depth and engagement that perhaps the rigorous writing of the bigger studios (sometimes) produces. There are also elements of the story that would maybe be ironed out by the bigger studios that perhaps make The House of Magic unsuitable for very young viewers; Thunder is not a lost cat, the film opens with him being intentionally dumped on the pavement by his owners and there are also moments in which he is nearly run over several times and someone goes after him with a gun with the sole intention of killing him. It does not add danger to the older viewer (as this after all a kids’ film) but perhaps would be too much for really young viewers. Plus there are slightly more risky elements that the big studios would get rid of such as children joyriding in an ambulance and a few stereotyped characters that are borderline racist.
Though it is basically a wafer thin and highly conventional plot held together by set pieces that though often suggest the writers have seen the Home Alone films a fair few times they are undoubtedly good fun and made with visual flair to produce a film that is without a doubt enjoyable and charming from start to finish, and most certainly a cut above many of the highly lazy animated films released recently with far bigger budgets (Tarzan, The Nut Job, Free Birds etc, etc)
Though perhaps lacking the depth of the best output of the best releases form the big animation studios in terms of both animation and story, The House of Magic is also a little rough around the edges but without doubt a charming and enjoyable animated romp made with the best of intentions.