Living in a land down under
RELEASED OUT NOW! PG | 102 minutes
Director Don Hall
Cast Jake Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid,
Gabrielle Union, Jaboukie Young-white
Disney hasn’t tended to dip into the straightforward adventure genre much since the one-two flame-out of Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Treasure Planet. So it’s encouraging that the company chose to take a gamble on Strange World, the latest from Raya And The Last Dragon collaborators Don Hall and Qui Nguyen. Jake Gyllenhaal voices Searcher Clade, who grew up excited to follow in the adventurous footsteps of his explorer father Jaeger (Dennis Quaid). But a key father-son bonding trip ends in bitterness when Searcher discovers energy-giving plants that push the technological advancement of the community of Avalonia.
Jaeger belittles the breakthrough, choosing to leave and keep looking for what lies beyond the mountains that ring their home. Searcher commits to being a farmer – at least until a threat to the plants prompts him to take up dad’s mantle and quest for a fix.
Though its storytelling is driven by those trope-heavy daddy issues, Strange World’s thrills are more visual, as Searcher discovers a subterranean place filled with weird creatures. The designs are impressive and have a reason to exist in the narrative. Even creatures that were clearly created to sell more toys have a point. Fans of Jules Verne, HG Wells and Terry Pratchett, meanwhile, will happily sink into the distinctly steampunk vibe.
Some refreshingly progressive character work – Searcher’s son Ethan (Jaboukie Young-white) is gay, which goes without comment or issue – means this is a step ahead of even other recent Disney releases, and while the basic concept might not be the most original, the pulpy vibe boosts the entertainment value higher than it might otherwise be.
This is Jake Gyllenhaal and Dennis Quaid’s second time as cinematic father and son following The Day After Tomorrow.
This is a step ahead of even other recent Disney releases