Strange World Movie Review and Movie Summary (2022)

“Strange World” is the latest collaboration between co-directors Don Hall and Qui Nguyenwho previously worked on “Raya and the Last Dragon” with Hall’s co-directors, Paul Briggs and Carlos Lopez Estrada. It’s always hard to know how to praise collaborations of this scale and nature, but Nguyen’s solo writing byline on “Strange World” stands out, as does his co-director credit (this is his debut feature). Hall is no slouch either; his name, on recent Disney hits such as “Moana,” “Big Hero 6” and “Winnie the Pooh“, also seems remarkable.

After “Raya and the Last Dragon,” “Strange World” feels like a lower-stakes, and therefore more enjoyable, union of Hall and Nguyen’s talents. These guys have clearly seen and perhaps even studied the Disney cartoons that defined the company’s 90s animation renaissance. (Seriously, have you seen “Big Hero 6”?). So it’s nice to see that with “Strange World” they’ve found a project that brings out the best of their combined talents and doesn’t just feel like it was focus-grouped to death.

“Strange World” zips along with an easy pace that makes up for its lack of dramatic tension. Steadfast Explorer Jaeger Clade (Dennis Quaid) leaves his insecure son, Searcher Clade (Jake Gyllenhaal). Searcher wants his father to follow suit his lead for once, and in this case be aware of a mysterious green plant he calls Pando, but Jaeger rejects both Searcher and Pando. Twenty-five years pass in the blink of an intertitle, after Searcher leaves his fellow adventurers to find the outer limits of Avalonia, the isolated mountain valley home of the Clades. In that time, Searcher has become Avalonia’s hero since they have adopted Pando as the city’s main power supply. Searcher is now a Pando farmer, and his world revolves mainly around his crops and his family: his loving aviator wife Meridian (Gabrielle Union), his easily-embarrassed teenage son Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White), and Legend, their three-legged dog.

When the Pando crops do not provide the electrical charge they used to, Callisto (Lucy Liu), one of Jaeger’s old explorer friends, asks a reluctant Searcher to help her find out. And he does so with his wife and son in tow. Together, they descend into a large hole in the ground, where they discover a living, Pandora-like world filled with various creatures, plants and other sentient fauna that look as if they were traced from old biology textbook illustrations. They also quickly stumble upon Jaeger, who now lives among the amoeba forests and acidic rivers. He and Searcher play catch-up while Searcher chases Ethan, who is always a few steps ahead.

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