Story: Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal) is excited to embark on an epic journey of exploration with his father Jaeger (Dennis Quaid), not just because his dad is a legend, but to share the experience of discovery together. The group heads through a brutal mountain range that seems inaccessible, but of course, Jaeger and Searcher manage to tame the mountains, at least enough to explore a little and have a look around. The journey yields exciting new discoveries right off the bat, as Searcher encounters a new type of plant he has called Pando, which have electric properties. This should be a great moment, but Jaeger is uninterested in the plant and wants to move on, while Searcher wants to learn about the Pando and their potential uses. As such, the two split paths and decades later, Searcher has established an outpost town, powered by the Pando. But when a mysterious new arrival reveals a threat to the survival of the Pando and by turn, possibly the human race, can Searcher manage to lead an expedition to find out what is going wrong with the plants?

Entertainment Value: I had fun with Strange World, as it might not feel high stakes or be as emotionally resonant as Pixar’s best, but it is an interesting, well crafted work of sci/fi animation. The narrative is solid and weaves in some effective emotional beats, not to mention some positive social themes, while the animation steals the show. I was floored by how beautiful Strange World is at times, so rich and colorful. Some of the scenes are simply a visual feast, to the point I revisited several sequences just to take the time to soak in all the details and atmosphere. This has a familiar Disney feel in terms of visuals, but with an effective out of this world vibe to make everything feel cosmic and alien, with some recognizable elements blended in. I loved seeing a sci/fi concept fleshed out with such gorgeous animation and attention to detail, this is truly a visual masterpiece and a movie that could certainly showcase a home theater’s capabilities.

In addition to the solid narrative and breathtaking visuals, Strange World also boasts some impressive star power on the voice cast lineup. Jake Gyllenhaal has the central role and performs well, as he is able to make the most of the script’s emotional beats and that adds a lot to the movie. The writing invests heavily into highlighting the importance of communication and while it can be a touch heavy handed, cast members like Gyllenhaal make it work even. Jaboukie Young-White tends to steal a lot of of scenes however, as Searcher’s young son Ethan. There is an energy and wonder in both the character and the performance, both of which enhance Strange World immensely. The cast also includes Dennis Quaid, Lucy Liu, Gabrielle Union, Karan Sani, and of course, sci/fi staple Alan Tudyk.

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