Imagine a cutsey, cartoon version of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, in which a shaggy dog, chilled-out hippy rabbit, opera-singing cow and a shy snail form a fellowship to embark on a treacherous adventure to save their home aided by Gandalf on a spring, and you may get some idea of what the feature-length CGI animation of cult kids’ TV favourite The Magic Roundabout has in store.
Dougal (voiced by Robbie Williams) and his friends are sent on a mission by wizard Zebedee (voiced by Ian McKellen) to reclaim three diamonds in a bid to save the Enchanted Village, and indeed Dougal’s beloved Florence (voiced by Kylie Minogue), from being frozen forever by the evil Zeebad (voiced by Tom Baker). The plot, which is energetically brought to life by the all-star cast, is simple and fun and has a rare innocence that is charming and wholly appropriate for its young audience.
The original series was a firm favourite of 70s children and a little later became a cult hit with students – who drew their own less innocent interpretations from the psychedelic imagery in the show – so a feature, 40 years on, has a lot to live up to for an older audience. The look of the characters has stayed faithful to the original but advanced technology has transformed The Magic Roundabout into a superslick, visually stunning piece that may be a disappointment for adults hoping to ride on a nostalgic wave but should meet the expectations of a new generation of kids who are fed a diet of sophisticated animations from Hollywood’s Pixar and Dreamworks studios.
The casting choices made for The Magic Roundabout helped add sparkle to the already beloved characters. It was obvious that some of the stars chosen were selected to add their own personalities into the mix. Bill Nighy brought his trademark faded rock star, seen in Love Actually and Still Crazy, to the role of Dylan, Ray Winstone’s hard man Londoner was present in the ineffectual soldier Sam and Ian McKellan had a chance to reprise Gandalf with Zebedee.
Already experienced at providing voices for animations Jim Broadbent was excellent as ever as loveable snail Brian, while Joanna Lumley’s snooty interpretation of the aspirational Ermintrude was a treat. Kylie Minogue was a little flat as Florence but her pop star counterpart Robbie Williams delivered a surprising and delightful turn as the long-haired, laid back dog Dougal.
There was a fair amount of slapstick and visual humour to make young kids giggle, but for adults the simple script didn’t bear many laughs bar one or two obvious jokes. Bill Nighy’s character’s many subtle drug innuendos, however, may create one or two knowing smiles to spread across older faces in the auditorium but overall this script lacks the cleverness seen in some of the big Hollywood animations in recent times. It is also strictly for younger children as older kids searching for credibility among their peers may find the cute characters a little babyish and the plot too simplistic.
The Magic Roundabout is an enchanting adventure that will capture the imaginations of small kids everywhere. It is a visual delight and its cast of characters, vocalised with a great deal of charm by the stars involved, will captivate and entertain. While young viewers will be heavily involved for 90 minutes, their accompanying adults could become a little restless – this is a film that is strictly for children.