Review 24: The Magic Roundabout (2/5)

The Magic Roundabout

Directed by Dave Borthwick, Jean Duval, Frank Passingham

Starring Robbie Williams, Tom Baker, Jim Broadbent, Lee Evans, Joanna Lumley, Bill Nighy, Ray Winstone, Kylie Minogue, Sir Ian McKellen

Released on February 11, 2005

Running time: 1h 25m

Rated PG

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Kids & Family

I was originally going to watch the US version of this, known as Doogal, but I decided to take a look at its inspiration first. And…what can I say? It’s a small-scale, somewhat annoying, half-decently animated, harmless kid’s flick. It was originally French, but the UK translated the dialogue, redubbed it in English, and released it.

The Magic Roundabout begins with a bit of backstory told through a dream sequence. 10,000 years ago, the malevolent sorcerer Zeebad (really?) (Tom Baker), who was apparently the cause of the Ice Age, is planning to freeze the sun, therefore freezing the world, and making Earth his personal paradise. He is stopped by the good wizard Zebedee (Sir Ian McKellen), who imprisons Zeebad in a magical merry-go-round, referred to as a roundabout in The Magic Roundabout. I guess that “roundabout” is the British term for “merry-go-round”. Kind of like how in Britain, cookies are biscuits, elevators are lifts, and how soccer is football. I don’t mind this at all. Zeebad, the blue one, and Zebedee, the red one, apparently draw their ice and fire powers (respectively) from their mustaches, and they don’t have legs. They have big springs. Okay.

Transition to the present day. The incredibly hairy dog, Dougal (Robbie Williams) (not Doogal as in the US version), lives with his owner, a little girl named Florence (Kylie Minogue). Dougal has quite a taste for candy. Okay, I can understand Bugs Bunny and carrots, Winnie-the-Pooh and honey, but a dog and candy? Okay.

Dougal, when attempting to swipe a buttload of candy from a street peddler who looks like a scary demon of hell, accidentally sends the peddler’s cart careening into the roundabout as Florence and several other kids are riding it. The cart explodes somehow, which somehow releases Zeebad.

Zebedee arrives and tells Dougal, Dylan (Bill Nighy) (a Southern, guitar-playing rabbit who’s a former smoker and drunkard), Ermintrude (Joanna Lumley) (an opera-singing cow), and Brian (Jim Broadbent) (a bashful snail that is in love with Ermintrude {eww}) that there are three diamonds hidden across the world that Zeebad must not be allowed to find. These diamonds will give Zeebad the power to freeze the sun. Zebedee gives the group Train (Lee Evans) (a magic, talking train) to transport them to the diamonds’ locations. The race is on to find the diamonds and stop Zeebad.

Why are Zebedee and Zeebad springy thingies? Why does their magic come from their mustaches? Why and how do Dougal, Dylan, Ermintrude, Brian, and Train talk? Why is opera made fun of? Why do Ermintrude and Brian wear hats? How can Dylan play the guitar? Why does Zeebad have dual braids? Why does Zeebad’s fortress look like a bust of his face sticking its tongue out? Why does Zeebad’s fortress only show up for a few minutes, then is forgotten about? Why does Brian have teeth? How is Zeebad threatening? Why did this movie steal the line “Revenge is a dish best served cold”? Is this soldier really this dumb? How can Zebedee and Zeebad recreate Priori Incantatem from Harry Potter? Does Train seriously just say “d@mmit”? Why is Florence so courteous that she could try out for Jesus? Why are Brian and Ermintrude in love? Why are there so many cheap puns? Why was Dylan a former smoker and drunkard? Why is Dougal’s voice so whiny? Why does one particular scene castrate the glory of “Also Sprach Zarathustra”? Why is one of the Deus Ex Machinas singing? Why does one scene have to be all “Commando”? Why are there two death fakeouts? Why is the movie’s scale so small?

Okay so as I just pointed out, the story and characters are surprisingly weak. The story had been told so many times. The characters are cardboard cutouts. However the acting isn’t all that bad. Okay, Robbie Williams as Dougal and Tom Baker as Zeebad are pretty annoying, especially in Dougal’s case, but Jim Broadbent as Brian, Joanna Lumley as Ermintrude, Bill Nighy as Dylan, and Sir Ian McKellen as Zebedee do their best with what they have, especially Broadbent and McKellen. Of course, whenever I think Ian McKellen, I think of Gandalf from Lord of the Rings. Who wouldn’t? Joanna Lumley actually has a surprisingly decent singing voice, easily trumping Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia! and Gerard Butler in The Phantom of the Opera. Bill Nighy wasn’t that bad, though his performance in The Magic Roundabout was reminiscent of Cary Elwes in Twister. Nighy and Elwes both played Southern people so that the audience couldn’t tell that they were British. Elwes did so MUCH better than Nighy, though Nighy is hands down the better actor. It’s like comparing Tim Curry from It to Douglas Rain in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Douglas Rain is clearly the better actor, but Tim Curry will be much more memorable. “YOU’LL FLOAT! YOU’LL ALL FLOAT!”

The soundtrack wasn’t that bad…until the transition into the first pop song.

Do NOT make fun of Opera Populaire. EVER.

Also, DO NOT disrespect the catchiness of “You Really Got Me Now”.

In one particular scene in which there is a “traveling on a map” shot, I was tempted to insert the Indiana Jones theme.

Of COURSE they were going to have to throw in a “Commando” sequence in which Dougal runs toward the third diamond as Zeebad continually blasts ice at him. Dougal runs in slow motion, and Zeebad always barely misses him. Wow.

There is one particular scene in The Magic Roundabout that I would like to address. It happens soon after Dougal, Dylan, Ermintrude, Brian, and Train set out on their quest to find the diamonds. They set up camp for the night, and as Ermintrude is setting up her tent, this happens. Ermintrude is offscreen, but the tent is shaking and moaning is heard. And then, blessedly, the camera pans to Ermintrude yanking on a rope to set up her tent.

Yikes. You might suggest to your parents to turn the movie off, but hey, if you’re reading this, you are your parents.

It’s a harmless kids flick, despite the one sexual innuendo and the two drug references. Just don’t expect anything spectacular.

But, then, of course, there’s Doogal.

I’m not looking forward to seeing the once-funny-now-opinionated Jon Stewart of The Daily Show voice Zeebad.

Final Verdict: 2 out of 5 stars.

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