STRANGE WORLD is directed by Don Hall and Qui Nguyen. The film features the voices of Jake Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid, Jaboukie Young-White, Gabrielle Union, and Lucy Liu.
Jaeger and Searcher Clade are explorers famed for their exploits, but differences in opinions and goals drive the two apart. Searcher’s discovery makes him revered in society, and he has since married and had a son. He’s beloved and hailed as a hero, but mysterious catastrophic events threaten everything he’s worked so hard for. A party travels underground to investigate the mystery, during which time Searcher is reunited by his estranged father after 25 years. But what is the mystery of this underground world, and will our heroes escape and save the day?
Disney continues to crack out animated films like clockwork. The trailers for STRANGE WORLD immediately appealed to me with a storytelling style and artwork reminiscent of old “pulp novels” and classic-style adventure stories. The film is well animated, colorful, and adventurous, but it ultimately fails to bring anything new to the table. It’s an average entry in their catalogue; nothing less and nothing more.
I’ll give STRANGE WORLD credit for its character designs, colorful settings, and its homages to vintage storytelling. It’s got a solid enough voice cast as well featuring everyone from Dennis Quaid to Lucy Liu. In terms of its production, STRANGE WORLD works well enough, with its surreal landscapes and pursuits of adventure.
Unfortunately, as well-intentioned as the movie is, it just doesn’t do anything revolutionary or interesting. As much as I loved the visuals and voice cast, this ultimately felt like a paint-by-numbers story with plenty of overdone elements, including estranged fathers and sons, and even a plot twist that feels fully unoriginal regarding the nature of the titular landscape. While not overly long, it does feel bland at times, and there’s an undying feeling of “haven’t I seen this before?”
STRANGE WORLD is a good but not great film. Disney was once the only game in town when it came to animated films, but this year alone, there have been so many other worthy contenders that leave this one in the dust. Moderately recommended, but there are better family-friendly animated movies out there.