“Thunder and the House of Magic” is a beautifully animated cartoon from
Belgium, a kids’ comedy with barely a laugh in it.
Blame it on translation — it has been released in a number of countries,
perhaps it was funnier in German, French or Hungarian. Or blame it on the lack
of gag writers involved. But when the non-name voice actors playing a cat, a
rabbit, a mouse, a kindly old magician and his scheming nephew have nothing to
recite but exposition (story points, not jokes), and the sight gags don’t make
up for that, this pretty bauble just lies there.
A cat is dumped on the streets of suburban Boston, and after dodging Dodges,
Dobermans and skateboarders, he might find shelter in this spooky old house set
back from the street.
But there are gadgets and puppets come to life there, and a cranky old rabbit
and a mouse guarding their turf. This is an elderly magician’s home, and they
don’t want the cat horning in on their lifestyle.
Lawrence (Doug Stone) was and is Lorenzo the Illustrious, a doddering old man
who entertains at children’s hospitals and regales his former sidekicks — the
rabbit, mouse, “love birds” and automata — with the great illusions of his
past. He spies the cat, names him Thunder, and welcomes him in, much to the
Events conspire to land the old man in the hospital, and that’s when
Lawrence’s scheming real-estate agent nephew Daniel (Grant George) springs into
action. He’ll sell the house and put his uncle in a home. Daniel isn’t above
cursing when the critters scheme to foil his attempts to sell, and he’s not
above resorting to taking a shotgun after the cat. He’s allergic, and he blames
the cat for the “accidents” that happen during every sales pitch.
“It’s the Boston River for you!”
“House of magic” feels old school in that regard. Animated films today have
little at stake, and much of what might be called violence has been washed out
of them. Not in Belgium, apparently. Between the family, pulling a moving
trailer behind their car as they abandon their cat, to Daniel’s shotgun blasts
to the wrecking ball he wants to take to the house and all in it, this is
slapstick of an Elmer Fudd hunting Daffy Duck variety.
If only it was that funny.
The animated chases, from the cat’s or mouse’s point of view, are harrowing
and entertaining. The pull-out-the-stops household assaults on real estate
clients and Daniel are chaotic, if never quite hilarious.
“Magic” just has no magic about it, another limp cartoon in a year that has
been littered with them. This Euro-import dispensed with the classic “easy fix”
on weak animation, hiring movie stars to do the voices, letting fly with the
verbal zingers. The big money was spent on the animation. It’s too bad the
script lacks the sight gags or one-liners that could have made this good looking
picture more animated.
MPAA Rating: unrated with mild profanity, violence
Cast: The voices of Murray Blue, Shanelle Gray, Doug Stone, Joey Camen,
Credits: Directed by Jeremy Degruson and Ben Stassen, written by James Flynn, Dominic Paris and Ben Stassen. An nWave/Shout Factory release.
Running time: 1:24