The House Of Magic


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

"Assembly line filmmaking."

The House of Magic 3-D is a gritty one room two-hander, recalling Mike Leigh with its claustrophobic intensity, Scorsese with the depth of filth in its vernacular, and most newspaper science headlines with the accuracy of the opening line of this review. It's a film with a talking cat about a house that's magic, and it's in 3-D.

One hesitates to say this somewhat endearing film about the value of friendship and not judging people on initial appearances is a wholly cynical and soulless exercise. Hesitates, but only for a time - this is a film that's apparently already out on DVD in some territories, has a big name voice cast for the US version, and has a matching game available for both Android and iOS.

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There's a character called Edison who is animated by magic as well as computer graphics, a cheery little dude with a head somewhere between a nixie tube and a lamp (never a bulb - see The Globe Collector) who has a clockwork key in his back because of the law of conservation of energy or lazy character design. The feline protagonist is named Thunder, all big eyes and small body, quite nimble too - the camera follows him in POV shots along branches often enough that it starts to look like a tech demo. There are things coming out of the screen, more things coming out of the screen, and then more things coming out of the screen.

That's the third dimension. The rest is pretty two-dimensional, with some good character design and neat touches (a Polaroid camera that looks more like the Instagram logo is like a tulpa from some Baudrillardian design consultancy), and some odd ones - there's a jar of coriander in the kitchen large enough to drown a lamb, never mind season it. There's the magician, his nephew (no lions or witches, sadly), a plot about selling a property that owes a debt to Beetlejuice, and a few other problems.

The film has three screenplay credits, two directors; it is assembly line filmmaking. Committee cinema doesn't always go well, regionalisation is confused by the needs of distributors and co-producers, and then there's the soundtrack. The music by Ramin Djawadi isn't bad (he did Iron Man and Pacific Rim) but the first song on the soundtrack is The Lovecats by The Cure which is weird due to some thematic discord. The second, however, is House Of Fun, by Madness, which does not belong in a children's film not just because it's a song about becoming an adult but also because it's about attempting to buy prophylactics and as such avoid becoming the kind of adult who has to go to films like this.

For UK viewers, or at least those who see the version that Eye For Film saw at the 2014 Edinburgh Film Festival, it's the kind of voice-actors who have incredibly long CVs of incredibly small parts. In other territories, Ron Perlman et al. This is from the makers of the also 3-D Fly Me To The Moon, and if we're being blunt about it (and that's a speciality of your reviewer) this is just about an hour and a half of holiday shut up. The kind of film that's built to academic timetables and contains just enough "ooh" and "ah" to sustain itself and just enough "eh" and "huh?" to aggravate. There are worse films out there, but probably better and cheaper ways to occupy an afternoon spent with smaller humans.

Reviewed on: 22 Jul 2014
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The House Of Magic packshot
An abandoned kitten finds refuge in a magician's house that is filled with talking animals and animated objects
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Read more The House Of Magic reviews:

Angus Wolfe Murray ****

Director: Jeremy Degruson, Ben Stassen

Writer: James Flynn, Dominic Paris, Ben Stassen

Starring: voices of Murray Blue, Doug Stone, Grant George, George Babbit, Shanelle Gray, Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor, Ron Perlman, William Shatner, Kiefer Sutherland, Cinda Adams, Sage Sommer, Edward Asner

Year: 2013

Runtime: 85 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: Belgium


EIFF 2014

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