Movie Review: Strange World (2022)

Disney’s latest animated adventure is a triumph of representation and style, but the film’s storytelling barely scratches the surface. Don Hall’s Strange World (B-) follows a legendary explorer family who must set aside their differences as they embark on a journey to the center of the earth filled with surreal creatures to protect an agricultural power source. Clearly an homage to pulpy serialized sci-fi magazines, this tale examines a spectrum of masculinity as hunters and gatherers unite for common good. The land under Avalonia feels like Pandora Jr., and the rules of this subterranean world don’t reveal themselves soon enough. The bumper crop of voice talent – Jake Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid, Gabrielle Union and Jaboukie Young-White – add wonder and whimsy to the lush landscape and painterly palette seemingly inspired by popping boba pearls and squishy slime toys. The shape shifting sidekick Splat is fun and Henry Jackman’s music soaring, plus if Epcot’s Land Pavilion needs a fantastical farming voyage, it’s all right here. The movie is saved by some tender moments even though the action only dazzles in spurts. A film with characters devoted to their fortune seems destined for the animation studio’s second-tier shelf.

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