Helmed by Raya and the Last Dragon collaborators Don Hall and Qui Nguyen (the former of whom also counts a co-directing credit for Moana and full directing credits for Winnie the Pooh (2011)), Strange World centers on Jaeger Clade (Dennis Quad), a thrill-seeking explorer who is ever hungry to make the next big discovery.
However, while the mystery of what lies ahead and the call to explore is what ignites passion within Jaeger’s brawny, mustachioed bosom, the same cannot be said for his less adventurous son, Searcher (Jake Gyllenhal).
Rather than setting out for new horizons, Searcher is much more content with doing what he can to better their homeland of Avalonia.
Regardless, Searcher is not completely averse to accompanying his father on his expeditions, and one day finds himself tagging along with Jaeger as the latter sets out to conquer the other side of a supposedly unclimbable mountain.
While in the wild, Searcher stumbles upon a strange green plant emitting an electric pulse, which he believes may end up being a major find in terms of Avalonia’s future.
Unfortunately, after a heated argument erupts between the two, the father and son split ways, with Jaeger choosing to continue on tackling the dangers of the mountain while Searcher returns home with his new discovery in tow.
Fast forward 25 years and the plant, now called Pando, has become the primary source of energy for Avalonia.
Now working on a farm responsible for distributing Pando’s byproducts to the public, Searcher begins to notice that the plant is beginning to lose its potency.
In light of his defacto role as Avalonia’s Pando expert, Searcher is pulled back into the world of adventure by President Calliso Mal (Lucy Liu), who tasks him with finding a way to save their homeland from collapse.
As noted above, as far as visuals go, Strange World does not disappoint. In the best ways possible, the characters’ designs are not unlike those of the casts of Big Hero 6 or Raya and the Last Dragon, while the super expressive and prolonged facial expressions are similar to those you’d find in one of The Croods films.
Further, little details are animated incredibly intricately. Of particular note is the film’s depiction of hair, which flows and waves in genuinely realistic ways that were only CGI pipe dreams just a few short years ago.
Searcher Clade (Jake Gyllenhal) and Legend make a startling discovery in Strange World (2022), Disney via YouTube
However, where Strange World really shines is in its incredible depiction of its titular location, an alien terrain whose overflowing pink hue begets the bubble-gum characteristics of the surrounding flora.
Dancing among these horizons are a these bizarre yet majestic creatures whose aversion to physics or realism makes them some of the most fun elements to witness.
There’s also the issue with the film’s supposedly ‘groundbreaking reveal’, which feels less impactful than it probably should have been as though it implies a very final fate for the cast, the end result is anything but.
In an attempt to avoid spoilers as much as possible, I’ll just say that thanks to this lack of consequences, the entire main expedition of the film – even despite reuniting the Clade family – ends up feeling worthless.
Visually wondrous but spectacularly dull, unbelievably unfunny, and lackluster from the inside out in every other aspect, Strange World is a superficially stimulating with the entertainment value of a wet yet adventurous sponge.