What do Elvis Presley, Burt Bacharach, Bob Marley, Kelly Clarkson, The Four Seasons, Four Tops and Electric Light Orchestra all have in common? Well obviously they're all musicians, but the common denominator is that all of these artists have popular songs that have been combined into a jukebox musical by George Lucas. Strange Magic, named after the song by ELO, debuts in theaters nationwide on January 23rd, but the soundtrack is available now.
Set in a magical forest with fairy tale creatures as its cast, Strange Magic is based on the Shakespeare comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream. As a result, most of the songs are about love. Based off who sings which tracks, Evan Rachel Wood is clearly the main character whose heart is broken by Sam Palladio. Alan Cumming is some sort of villain who winds up becoming the love interest of Wood's character. I'm grasping at straws though to piece together the story since I haven't seen the film yet. Few have because they didn't allow most press to see the film before its release. "I have a bad feeling about this."
The soundtrack wins points for song selection. I was unfamiliar with "C'Mon Marianne" (originally by The Four Seasons), but here it is mashed with one of my favorite Kelly Clarkson anthems, "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" as a heated duet between Evan Rachel Wood and Sam Palladio. Other easily recognizable songs include "Can't Help Falling In Love With You," "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)," "Strange Magic" and "Wild Thing." But the real highlight of the soundtrack is "Love is Strange" performed by the one, the only Kristin Chenoweth. Another strength is the way each song is orchestrated. They sometimes take a departure from the traditional version of these songs, such as a Bollywood influence on "Love is Strange" and a Sgt. Peppers style beat to "Wild Thing."
However, this soundtrack mostly lacks the replayability of other products of the same ilk (Mama Mia, Rock of Ages, or any Glee soundtrack). The singers do a fine job, but when so many lines are yelled or screamed for dramatic effect, it becomes hard to just sit back, listen and enjoy. The song selection is also very eclectic, bouncing from doo-wop to grunge rock, giving the soundtrack really bad flow. There is at least one song missing from the soundtrack and I only know this from reading an interview with director Gary Rydstrom. It's a little song called "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga. Maybe it was too expensive to get the soundtrack rights? Ra-rah-rah-ah-ah!
But my biggest complaint is that they cast Kristin Chenoweth in a role with just one song. ONE SONG? Bah! That would be like casting Idina Menzel in a live action musical and not giving her a song to sing... oh wait...
If you see the film and like the way the songs are presented, than you'll probably enjoy the soundtrack. There are a few standout songs that are worth listening to again, but overall this soundtrack is unmemorable and mostly just makes you want to listen to the original versions instead. I don't expect it to be a chart topping soundtrack like Frozen or the mix tape from Guardians of the Galaxy.