Strange World (2022): No Awe, No Wonder, Just Boredom.
“Strange World” is directed by Don Hall and co-directed by Qui Nguyen. The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler, Spider-Man: Far from Home), Dennis Quaid (A Dog’s Purpose, The Express: The Ernie Davis Story), Jaboukie Young-White (The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Only Murders in the Building), Gabrielle Union (America’s Got Talent, Think Like a Man), and Lucy Liu (Charlie’s Angels, Kung Fu Panda). This film follows the Clades, a family who must overcome each other’s differences in order to successfully navigate themselves in a space off the map.
Thus far, animation has not been perfect this year. The only real highlight in regard to 2022 animation for me would have to be “Turning Red,” which I watched back in March and enjoyed immensely. In fact, my favorite animation I watched that came out this year is one that technically came out last year, specifically “Belle,” as it released in Japan in July 2021. That movie was so nice that I had to post about it twice. Therefore, I was hoping that “Strange World” could join the ranks of “Turning Red,” or surpass it, and give the genre a boost. “The Bad Guys” was okay. “Lightyear” was fun but it is no “Toy Story.” “Luck” was not perfect. Let’s not even talk about “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank.” I wanted something that could potentially be a medium-defining movie. We had a couple of those last year with “The Mitchells vs. the Machines,” the recently mentioned “Belle,” and Disney’s own “Raya and the Last Dragon.” The good news for those movies, depending on how you slice it, is if they wanted to remain superior, then this is a good day for them. “Strange World” is a movie that should have dazzled me. Unfortunately, I was bored.
Now let me be clear, for the people who ask why I do not like this movie, please note that this has nothing to do with a certain character having feelings for another specific character. If you are looking for another review where the writer disses on the movie because it is “woke,” go someplace else, arrogant scumbags. Scene Before is not the place for that. That said, it is time to talk about why “Strange World” is one of the most underwhelming and snore-inducing animations of the decade.
However, before we get there, I do want to drop some positives. Because the movie does have its moments. The first act, while not flawless, introduces the characters at a quick pace and provides some fascinating setup for what is to come. There is a particular event towards the end of the movie that caught me off guard, but in a good way. The opening song, while short, is kind of a banger. Oddly enough, this does not go for that traditional Disney movie soundtrack extravaganza where every other scene becomes a musical all of a sudden. There is no equivalent to Let It Go in “Strange World.” If you are seeking a musical, look elsewhere. If you are instead seeking a mediocre adventure in unfamiliar territory, look no further.
When your movie is called “Strange World,” that should be code to make a world that looked kooky and fun. However, I had my arms crossed for a good portion of the runtime. “Strange World” had scenes that looked like an escape from reality, but it is not just a matter of how the movie looks, but how it feels. Despite being taken on an adventure to somewhere unfamiliar, I never felt immersed into this world. Part of the reason is because this movie feels like it spends more time building its vast environments as opposed to the characters who are surrounded by said environments. Sure, we get moments where we get to know the characters, but it sometimes comes off as the bare minimum. In addition, the characters themselves are annoying.
Now the characters, for the most part, are well voiced. Dennis Quaid and Lucy Liu are particular standouts as Jaeger Clade (top right) and Callisto Mal (top left) respectively. The voice performances serve their purpose and are in no way problematic. However, I was annoyed by a character that should have been a lovable sidekick, Splat.
I found out that nobody voices Splat (right), so the voice actors are safe in this instance. However, the sounds that Splat makes, while somewhat appropriate, are honestly more headache-inducing than trying to find a parking spot at the mall on Black Friday. I can say this is based on true events. Both as someone who just wanted cheap Blu-rays the other day, and as someone who wanted to have a good time watching “Strange World,” but failed miserably.
Like most animated fare, there is a lesson intertwined that the crew perhaps aspire to deliver towards the children watching the movie. As an adult, I took away a particular lesson that sounded halfway decent. But at the same time, the lesson made for an atrocious story. It is predictable, dull, and worst of all, the three main characters all made me roll my eyes. Whether it was cheap dialogue, selfish motives, or overembellishing what could easily be shown instead of told. There are scenes where the main characters argue, and it had dialogue that should have been compelling, it should have gotten me invested in the scene and where things could go from here. All it did was made me put my hand on my head, begging for the movie to move along.
I watched “Strange World” in a theater that had some people. It was nowhere near its total capacity, but there were some families and kids. Despite the various attempts at comedy in “Strange World,” no one uttered a sound. I could barely hear children chuckling. For all I knew, the children at this screening had a good time. But when your family movie fails to get the family to emote, that is a problem. Although when the movie was over, people did clap. So there is that.
Watching and/or reviewing a Disney movie sometimes has its complexities. Because Disney is not just movies. That is just a small aspect of how they entertain the masses. What goes into their movies often factors into their merchandising, their parks, and so on. While “Strange World” is not a good movie, it was the kind of movie that despite its failed attempts to immerse me, made me think there could be a chance that this would make for a decent theme park ride. I can imagine this universe as a motion simulator in Disney World because it is so otherworldly. Kind of like some of Disney’s other rides such as Star Tours or Pirates of the Caribbean, it feels like going somewhere else. It does not feel like Florida. It does not feel like California. You’re either in space or some vast environment far from home. Unfortunately, I am not reviewing a theme park ride. I am reviewing a story. And despite one or two okay scenes, there was not enough to make me root for the characters or care about what was going on. As a story, this is dull. This is forgettable. This is uninteresting. I wanted it to end. Thankfully the movie not that long, but despite time flying by, I was not having fun.
In the end, “Strange World” is a bit of a letdown. I did not think this movie looked like the next big thing, but it also looked fun. Disney movies, even ones that are lower tier, seem to have glimmers of fun on a consistent basis. When I fail to walk out of a Disney movie, or any movie for that matter, with a smile on my face, that is not a good sign. Let me just put it this way. I had more fun with another Disney film, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” and that is despite the film saying goodbye to a major character (in addition to the actor who plays him) and having a few downer scenes. “Strange World” occasionally made me angry because it looked fun, but it did not feel fun. There is a difference between designing something pretty, and doing something with it that is interesting. This movie felt like a first date with the most attractive woman alive, only to find out she has zero personality whatsoever. “Strange World” is a waste of time and I am going to give it a 3/10.
“Strange World” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! If you liked this review, check out some of my other ones! If you want to see more animated movie reviews, check out the review I did for “The Bob’s Burgers Movie.” If you want to see more family movie reviews, check out my thoughts on the brand new Netflix film, “Slumberland.” I am planning on seeing a movie this weekend, I am not sure which one specifically, so as to whether “Violent Night” or “Spoiler Alert” is going to be my next review is a total mystery. You will have to find out for yourselves. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Strange World?” What did you think about it? Or, what is an animation that you saw recently that disappointed you? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!