Where i Watched It: Disney plus
English Audio Description Provided By: Deluxe
Narrated By: Nicole Sansorella
I basically live in a world where I just consume media, like a critic, whether I care about the film or not. I do draw the line every once in a while, like I have no intention of ever reviewing Terrifier 2, but I try my hardest to walk in with an open mind every time. I gotta say, i walked into Strange World assuming it sucked.
It’s not the same way i chose Turning Red earlier this year, where I saw it immediately at launch, and formed my own opinion away from others (which is why I’m one of the few who didn’t love it), and it’s not like Lightyear, which i was looking forward to, but it ultimately was more Toy Story 4 than the original trilogy. A clear cash grab. So, when the world universally rejected Strange World, Disney almost refused to advertise it, and it somehow just died in theatres, I clicked on this title expecting to hate another Disney title this year.
I did not. If anything, Strange World is the best of Disney’s animated features this year, even including those Disney Plus features. Though, if you consider Werewolf By night a feature, when it doesn’t run a full hour even, I suppose… maybe then we need to regroup.
But, aside from the film opening with an incredibly obnoxious song, Strange World proves itself to be a rewarding experience about parenting, fatherhood, and accepting that your son may not want to follow in your exact footsteps. I know in my own family, this is a thing. The expectation that your offspring will choose the same path, just because. Like all the decisions in life were already made, and they are just following suit. i think any man who has ever been expected to run the family business, or been pressured to attend the same college, or even simply accel at the same sport, can relate. The idea that you might be doing something meaningful, yet different, often can tear apart a family, and that’s the dynamic here in Strange World.
From the beginning, when we are on this “strange” planet, Dennis Quaid’s patriarch is an adventurer, and well known for it. So when his son expresses no interest in pushing forward on one of their excursions, the rift is so bad that Quaid storms off never to be seen or heard from again. Meanwhile the son (voiced by Jake Gyllenhaal), goes on to find a plant life that provides a power source for the humans on this planet, and ultimately triggers an Industrial Revolution. When we jump forward in time, he is regarded as the savior of his people, and has decided to just be a farmer to these crops he discovered, with his wife (Gabrielle Union), and son Ethan, who proudly represents what can be in a Disney film. He’s a smart, kind, imaginative kid who is very openly gay. And that subject matter is looked at like it just is a part of life. No person ever make a big deal out of it, and when he asks for romantic advice, he’s given it the same way every other kid has ever been given advice. He’s a biracial queer hero, and representation matters.
But that’s not why I enjoyed this film. I liked the continuing dynamic of Gyllenhaal projecting a chosen career path for Ethan just like his father did to him, but acting like that’s not what he’s doing. I enjoyed seeing Ethan make the same choice, to beat his own drum, and Gyllenhaal having to contend with that. All of this is against a backdrop of this well-described strange world that we find out is dying, and it might be the very plants Gyllenhaal discovered that are doing the most harm. It’s an adventure film, it’s a father/son film, and it’s way better than the box office suggests it might be. It just sounds super cool in the narration, like someone really spent a lot of time and detail coming up with this new planet, with new flora and fauna, and Disney just didn’t care. That’s the worst part, is how good this is, and how poorly represented it has become.
It’s not my favorite animation this year, and it certainly has problems. The biggest is probably that damn song. But, it’s still better than most of the titles I saw this yer, and a Disney title I will now remember as being underrated. Then again, i am a big fan of Treasure Planet. So, maybe I just have a soft spot for when Disney is willing to swing big.
Nicole’s narration here allows us to be enveloped by this planet that is created from scratch, with plants and creatures that have no counterparts here on earth. Frequently, we have these cool descriptions involving interactions between the characters and the world around them, and it makes such a huge difference to have that narration. On top of that, there are two non-verbal animal creatures with a significant presence that need to be tracked. one, a dog, the other is jsut a blob. Both contribute at times to the plot, in one way or another.
Give this film a chance it never got in theatres. If you have Disney plus, and at any time this year used your subscription to watch The Ice Age Adventures of Buckwild, Diary of A Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, or Night At The Museum 4, i don’t want to hear any crap about this not looking good enough. There is a level of craftsmanship that went into this film, not just with the animation, but the story, and the voice cast, that comes nowhere near those other films. This truly is on a world of its own.
Final Grade: B