Strange World Film Has Most Ups with a Few Downs

Kennedy Sefah, Print Staff

   Inspired by grand fantasy adventures such as “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and a style that reflects recent Disney films like “Onward”, “Soul” and “Strange World” follows a family of multi-generational explorers.    On an important expedition, patriarch Jaeger Clade, voiced by Dennis Quaid, ventures alone through the mountains never to be seen again while his son, Searcher, voiced by Jake Gyllenhaal, returns home with a magical plant which  everyone (except Jaeger) calls  “Pando” is capable of bringing electricity and new technology to their primitive town.

   Content as a farmer for the ensuing decades, Searcher is forced back into the wild unknown when the Pando plants fall sick.    With his wife Meridan, voiced by Gabrielle Union, son Ethan, voiced by Jaboukie Young-White — Disney’s first openly gay teen character  and their three-legged dog by his side, Searcher joins Avalonia’s finest voyagers to journey into the mountain where Pando’s roots are under attack by incredible and incredibly strange creatures.

   Co-directed by veteran Disney filmmaker Don Hall, and newcomer Qui Nguyen who last partnered together for “Raya and the Last Dragon”, this latest animated entry checks every box of a modern Disney film. The film is  progressive, thoughtful and attractive.    There is plenty for the eyes to feast upon, and the animators have invented yet another world that pops off the screen.

   What “Strange World” lacks, however, is a stronger emotional punch. Searcher is a relatively weak, insipid, lead and  Jaeger is a one-note, unsympathetic character. Ethan, an earnest propeller of equity and inclusion in a historically exclusive studio, leaves no real impression either. Even in the film’s most heartfelt scenes, viewers will not likely be moved to even the brink of tears. Torn between action and emotion, “Strange World” is a nice one-time ride, a reason to take the kids out of the house on Thanksgiving while dinner cooks, but it certainly will not become anyone’s new favorite.