When it comes to commercial feature animation the industry is often swamped by major entertainment corporations – with Aardman films or similar independents pitting themselves against Pixar, Disney and Dreamworks collective market dominance unfortunately being a rare occurrence. Consequently when you see any other animation aping the same style, it’s difficult not to make a comparison and House of Magic is a film that unfortunately suffers in this context.
Directed by Ben Stassen and Jeremie Degruson House Of Magic is film obviously aimed towards the youth market, following the adventures of a house cat turned stray who takes residence in the mysterious house of an old magician. Initially shunned by a jealous stage rabbit and his mousey companion, Thunder the cat takes on a new significance in foiling the plans of the magician’s evil nephew, an estate agent who will stop at nothing to sell the house and put his uncle in a home. The only downside is that ‘said evil nephew’ is conveniently allergic to cats.
While the plot itself is simple family fun that bears little thought, the most appealing element was definitely the style of animation. While Stassen’s previous film A Turtles Tale: Sammy’s Adventures was the horrendous doppelganger of Finding Nemo that definitely should have stayed on the cutting room floor, The House of Magic is far more accomplished visually – even if it does bring to mind elements of Coraline, The Illusionist, Tim Burton’s oeuvre and Sid’s macabre toy creations from Toy Story. The 3D itself also has a tendency to fall into gimmick territory – which despite its often stylish execution – ultimately ticks another box in the camp of safe, family friendly, talking animal movies.
With an ensemble cast including the likes of William Shatner, Ron Perlman and Ewan McGregor in smaller roles and a distinct animation style, The House of Magic is definitely a step forward for director Stassen but unfortunately shuns Pixar and Dreamworks signature adult humour in lieu of friendly capers, cringe worthy human caricatures and overcrowded set pieces. On the plus side, the film does still contain enough hijinks, fantasy and talking animals to satisfy its target demographic and if this is an early indicator of independent studios battling the animation giants at the box office then I wish the film and future smaller budgeted animation features the best of luck. Plus, if it has the ability to make children smile it can’t be that bad of a movie right?
Directors: Jeremy Degruson, Ben Stassen
Stars: Cinda Adams, Edward Asner, George Babbit
Runtime: 85 mins