Magic Roundabout

Movie Review by Dan Spiers

Starring (voices of): Tom Baker, Jim Broadbent, Joanna Lumley, Ian McKellen
Directors: Dave Borthwick; Jean Duval; Frank Passingham

During the late 1960’s and early 70’s, the British public fell in love with a collection of highly idiosyncratic animated characters, brought to life by their charmingly peculiar narrator and the jerky wonder of stop frame animation. It is difficult to retain such eccentricity when re-rendered by the polished perfection of CGI, but the directors of THE MAGIC ROUNDABOUT, Jean Duval, Frank Passingham and Dave Borthwick, have, on occasion, done justice to the original.

The movie begins on a tranquil afternoon in the Enchanted Village. All is well, until Dougal (Robbie Williams), a fat, shambling dog becomes consumed by sugar lust, steals a confectionary laden vehicle and careers it into the magic roundabout.

The resultant explosion releases Zeebad (Tom Baker), a tyrant long imprisoned by the roundabout, whose touch is uniformly icy. The roundabout is immediately frozen, trapping a young girl, Florence (Kylie Minogue), who is Dougal’s best friend. The village wizard, Zebedee (Ian Mckellan) enlists the help of Dougal, a hippy rabbit called Dylan (Bill Nighy), a pompous cow called Ermintrude (Joanna Lumley) and a bashful snail called Brian (Jim Broadbent) to retrieve three diamonds that will prevent Zeebad freezing Florence and the village forever.

From the opening sequence in which gobstoppers and neon lollipops go flying through the air, it’s a colourful, nonsensical journey full of lovable, well cast characters. It is in this sense, by introducing a new generation to the characters that the modern version is of worth.

Though arguably playing to type, Robbie Williams is excellent as the cowardly, sugar lover Dougal. His round, lolloping vowel sounds sit well within Dougal’s chubby chops, but it is not until the end of the movie when he utters the line, ‘To me!’ that you realise his accent is based on that of a camp Chuckle Brother.

Dylan too is fantastic. Voiced by the near comatose Bill Nighy, he is the focus for much of the adult entertainment. From “Hot rocks man!’, to ‘I can see grass man, sweet green grass”, and even the referencing of PULP FICTION, ‘Zeb’s dead baby, Zeb’s dead’, he is a constant stream of puns, and the sole provider of narcotic undercurrents that featured in the original.

Many elements do jar though. The dialogue is often stilted and the soundtrack utterly misjudged. Rock operas do not seem the most effective way of engaging 5 year-olds in a sing-a-long. Kylie Minogue is also a disaster. Her voice is so high, it is no surprise her best friend is a dog. It is also as insubstantial as a cloud, as emotive as gruel and as resonant as lead.

If you are an adult attempting to relive past glories there is no way THE MAGIC ROUNDABOUT will satisfy. It is simply too far removed from the bizarre essence of the original. The central problem it faces though, like that of any CGI production, is to make unfamiliar an increasingly jaded visual style. It fails, but crucially, what the film has retained is a cast of characters cookie enough to stand out from their animated peers. In this the directors could hardly go wrong and as a result the movie is worth watching.

3 out of 6 stars