Star Rating:

Strange World

Director: Qui Nguyen

Actors: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jaboukie Young-White, Gabrielle Union

Release Date: Wednesday 23rd November 2022

Genre(s): Adventure, Animation, Fantasy

Running time: 101 minutes

Jaeger Clade (voice of Dennis Quaid) is a legendary explorer, who sets out from his home of Avalonia to discover a way through the impenetrable mountains that surround it to find help for his people. However, when his son Searcher (voice of Jake Gyllenhaal) discovers a power source on their journey for Avalonia, the two are separated in an avalanche. Years later, Searcher now farms and harvests the new power source with the help of his son Ethan (voice of Jaboukie Young-White). However, when the power source begins to fade, Searcher and Ethan set out on a new journey to discover the source, and find their past and the future beyond what they think they know...

If there's one thing that Disney has always done well for its animated works, it's family adventures. Whether it's recent animated films like 'Big Hero 6' or further back to the likes of 'The Rocketeer' or 'Homeward Bound', they're able to make punchy, quick-witted adventures that delight families young and old. Hell, RTÉ's Big Big Movie slot was almost exclusively dedicated to these movies way back when.

'Strange World' is built on these traditions, blending together steampunk and Jules Verne-esque weirdness with dashing adventures like 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', 'Innerspace', and Disney's own 'Treasure Planet'. Yet, where 'Strange World' departs from these is in its representation. The family at the core of 'Strange World' are mixed race, and the son - voiced by queer comedian Jaboukie Young-White - is openly gay. Smartly, nobody makes any reference to any of this in the script. It's accepted as a given and normal, because, well it is. Disney has only just now caught up with the rest of us in 2022, but nevertheless, it's an important step and a welcome one.

Beyond this, however, 'Strange World' is very much rigidly conservative. The action beats are well choreographed, the animation feels lucid and neatly presented, and the story follows a formulaic path. You'll probably even guess the big reveal inside the first forty minutes if you're paying attention. At just under an hour and a half, 'Strange World' moves at a clip through the adventure, but devotes just enough time to give the characters sufficient padding to connect with them. Jaeger, voiced by a gravelly Dennis Quaid, is the quintessential macho-man explorer, while Searcher is a homebody and risk-averse. Yet, in the son/grand-son, the best of both is found.

Again, 'Strange World' covers well-trodden ground, working in a framework it knows inside out, but with a modern theme and progressive representation. Considering how smart and inventive 'Big Hero 6' was, 'Strange World' comes up short against it. Still, if you're looking for an animated family adventure with a strong message and positive outlook, you can't go far wrong with this.