From Walt Disney Studios comes an animated adventure which definitely wears its influences like a badge of pride and admiration. And that’s totally fine. The filmmakers behind Strange World know that their movie is not a complete work of originality, but obviously have much love for better similar adventures such as Journey to the Center of the Earth and Fantastic Voyage. Featuring a delightful mix of humor, thrills, and heart, Strange World can, at least, claim that it might possibly introduce its young audiences to the kind of strange journeys that inspired it.
In the land of Avalonia, adventurous explorer Jaeger Clade (Dennis Quaid) and his son Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal) have famously made names for themselves as courageous and bold discoverers of foreign lands beyond the safety of their home. Though Jaeger has traveled and explored the wild and treacherous land far from home, he has yet to make it beyond a prodigious and intimidating mountain that lies on the horizon. Therefore, it has become his ultimate quest–the challenge that has eluded him for so long. And sadly, this obsession leads to Jaeger’s disappearance.
While on this quest, Searcher discovers a strange, electrified plant that grows from the ground. Already interested in horticulture, Searcher envisions a bright and more advanced future for his people with Pando (the plant he discovers) as a source of energy and scientific advancement for Avalondia. Twenty-five year later, after the tragic disappearance of his father, Avalondia has been thriving under the power of Pando, but this power source begins showing its limitations. Concerned that Pando may no longer be a viable source of energy, due to an unknown problem plaguing its crops, Searcher and a team of adventurers much travel underground and discover the roots of the problem. In doing so, Searcher and his team discover a fantastic and incredible world underground that they never knew existed.
Written by Qui Nguyen and directed by Don Hall, Strange World is a fun and genuinely exciting adventure that also presents a story where its characters must adapt to change and face the truths they have often been too afraid to address. Though the movie does tread upon a lot of familiar territory, it still delivers solid entertainment with much heart and love. Strange World is not just a story about obsessions and energy sources, but it is also about relationships and the acceptance of who people truly are–particularly, those closest to us.
The movie has a wonderful voice cast that includes Dennis Quaid, who gives much gusto prowess to the wildly courageous Jaeger Clade. As Jaeger’s son Searcher, Jake Gyllenhaal is absolute perfect as the nerdy horticulturalist who actually could do without adventure and excitement, and would rather prefer the simple life of growing Pando with his wife Meridian (Gabrielle Union) and his son Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White). Both Meridian and Young-White are great in their respective roles. The movie also has Lucy Liu, Karan Soni, Alan Tudyk, and others. All of whom are solid in their respective roles.
Strange World may not the best animated film of the year, but it is a highly enjoyable and entertaining offering by Disney that should be experienced on the big screen.