Strange World

The legendary Clades are a family of explorers whose differences threaten to topple their latest and most crucial mission.

Strange World is incredibly visually vibrant, which is never an aspect Disney misses in, not to mention director Don Hall’s outstanding track record at Disney in the past with Big Hero 6 and Raya and the Last Dragon. The imaginative color palette in the titular world the Clade family journeys through is engaging and surprising, even when the story material feels a little hollow. Jake Gyllenhaal is perfect as the lead role Searcher Clade, and it feels long overdue for him to join the Disney animation family. His voice has an incredible likability and he delivers the balance between “frustrating (but devoted) dad”, “frustrated/traumatized son” and “reluctant adventurer” really well. Dennis Quaid, Jakoubie Young-White, and Gabrielle Union are all having plenty of fun in the recording booths as well as a dysfunctional family that all want to just get along and enjoy each other’s company, though the grandpa and legendary explorer Jaegar Clade (voiced by Quaid) has other priorities and is overly consumed with his duties to his pride and explorations. Though the style is always visually inviting, the substance behind the conflict doesn’t always click until the end, and the characters’ relationships are way more interesting than the action itself. The style believes it’s being very nostalgic, presenting itself as a tribute to pulp magazines, but it actually looks and feels very modern. Though the film is quite heartfelt due to the characters it develops, the actual themes of familial expectations have been done plenty in recent animated films, most notably in Encanto and Turning Red that are still fresh in all our memories. There are instances where it tries to even become self-aware of the cliches its indulging in, which simply makes it even more awkward. On the positive side, the movie has Disney’s most prominent representation of an LGBTQ main character in one of their animated films, which is a celebratory step forward for family films on the big screen. Gyllenhaal’s voice performance is outstanding, backed by heartfelt supporting characters, and the animation gives the film lots of energy, but not enough to rank it among other adventures from the modern era of the studio like Zootopia or Wreck-It Ralph, though it’s still sweet and a decent one-time watch for families.

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