THUNDER AND THE HOUSE OF MAGIC
*** (out of 5)
September 5, 2014
Murray Blue as THUNDER
George Babbit as JACK/CARLO/ZOLTAR
Kathleen Browers as CARLA
Joey Camen as CHIHUAHUA
Grant George as DANIEL
Studio: nWave Pictures
Directed by: Jeremy Degruson and Ben Stassen
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
With animation, there used to only be two tiers. Back with traditional cell-painted animation, there was Disney, and all the rest. However, with the development of technology, the advent of modern computers and the push for other studios to make blockbuster animated movies, the field has widened quite a bit. Not only do you have studios like DreamWorks, Universal, and Blue Sky (distributing through Fox) taking a bite out of the blockbuster pie, but there’s also a lot of smaller studios that can manage a pretty impressive product worthy of release in theaters.
Sometimes those smaller animated groups fail big time, as we saw with “Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return” earlier this summer. Other times, there’s quite a bit of success to be made, as we saw with “The Nut Job” earlier this year.
One of the smaller animated films, but one that shouldn’t be discounted, is “Thunder and the House of Magic.” The story is pretty standard and simple, but it is balanced by the fact that the film isn’t trying to be anything more than what it is on face value.
“Thunder and the House of Magic” tells the story of an abandoned cat named Thunder who finds his way into a spooky old house. There, he encounters a batty old magician and his house of magic tricks and four-legged assistants. At first, the magician’s long-term pets are leery of Thunder, worried that he might steal theirs. However, when the magician lands in the hospital and his greedy nephew steps in with plans to sell the house, Thunder and the other creatures must use their wits and their hidden magic to protect their home.
Like “The Nut Job” and other films that aren’t produced by the powerhouse studios for a price tag north of $100 million, “Thunder and the House of Magic” looks like a smaller scale production. The artistry in the animation isn’t quite at the level we’ve grown accustomed to in the American cinemaplex. Also like “The Nut Job,” “Thunder and the House of Magic” is a foreign production getting a run here in the states. This time, it’s with Belgian money rather than Korean money.
Still, even though it appears a bit rudimentary compared to something you’d see from Pixar, “Thunder and the House of Magic” is a cute story that doesn’t try to stretch so hard you can see all the tricks. There’s plenty of elements that children are going to enjoy – from the cast of furry animals to the contained action scenes that include chases, slapstick and some impossible but fun-to-watch magic happening (which is all okay since it is a story about talking animals, after all).
The story treads some familiar ground, but that’s understandable and forgiveable. As I said before, it isn’t necessarily trying to be a groundbreaking film, but rather a breezy and entertaining one.
In some ways, “Thunder and the House of Magic” feels more like a television special or a DVD rental for family movie night rather than a big-screen spectacle, and I’m sure it will find a sizeable audience that way as well. However, it’s still a fun diversion, especially at a time of the year when there’s not a lot of films out there that little kids can enjoy with their folks.