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'Strange Magic' review: Strange, indeed, but not magicical

Bog King (voiced by Alan Cumming), Griselda (Maya

Bog King (voiced by Alan Cumming), Griselda (Maya Rudolph) and Marianne (Evan Rachel Wood) are part of a colorful cast of goblins, elves, fairies and imps in "Strange Magic. Credit: Lucasfilm

Lucasfilm Animation's "Strange Magic" seems to have all audiences covered. Based on a story by George Lucas and inspired by Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," it's a musical fantasy-romance clearly geared toward the girls who flocked to see "Frozen." It nods toward boys with the occasional action sequence. Its score of pop-rock chestnuts, many from the 1960s and '70s, should theoretically please adults.

Some ingredients, however, just weren't meant to go together. A noxious mix of butterfly-winged fairies, a Shakespearean plot and a jukebox musical, "Strange Magic" is a botched attempt at crowd-pleasing that seems guaranteed to disagree with almost everyone's palate.

That goes not only for the overall concept but for the details. The heroine of "Strange Magic" is Marianne (Evan Rachel Wood), a Fairy Kingdom princess whose heart is broken by Roland (Sam Palladio), a blond hunk who, for some reason, talks like Elvis Presley. A subplot involves Marianne's flighty sister, Dawn (newcomer Meredith Anne Bull). A mythical love potion draws them into the Dark Forest, ruled by the spindly, insectoid Bog King (Alan Cumming). Every two or three minutes, someone sings a snippet of a well-known love song -- anything from Mickey & Sylvia's "Love Is Strange" to Beyonce's "Crazy in Love."

Lucas, so criticized for his racially reductive Jar-Jar Binks character (in 1999's "The Phantom Menace"), is on dangerous territory with Sunny (Elijah Kelley), an African-Americanized elf whose theme song is Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds." That's a pretty shopworn stereotype.

Things improve when Marianne squares off against the Bog King, and the two develop an unlikely rapport that has a bit of Shakespearean chemistry. Part of this movie's commendable message is that looks aren't everything, but it has to be said that "Strange Magic," directed by Gary Rydstrom, is one hideous-looking work of animation. The fairies have vacant eyes, undersized teeth and distorted smiles -- problems other computer-animation studios solved years ago. On the plus side, the movie is only 99 minutes long. And at least no Beatles tunes are butchered.

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