Sunday, March 16, 2014

NYICFF ’14: House of Magic 3D

Even animators in France understand the Massachusetts economy is on life support. Forced to vote with their feet, the owners of a plucky kitten abandon him on the street when they move from their suburban Boston home. However, he will find a more distinctive abode in Ben Stassen & Jeremy Degruson’s Studio Canal-produced (English language) House of Magic 3D (trailer here), which screens during the 2014 New York International Children’s Film Festival.

Thunder is not cut out for a stray’s life, but nobody seems to be eager to adopt a cat in the residential neighborhood he finds himself stranded in. There is also a rather inhospitable dog, but he will not follow Thunder onto the grounds of the big spooky house on the hill. That would be the home of Lawrence, a.k.a. Lorenzo the Magnificent, an elderly but still spry magician.

Lawrence evidently has a soft spot for cats, but Jack, his rabbit-in-the-hat and Maggie the mouse are not so welcoming. In fact, they are determined to send Thunder packing.  Still, Lawrence’s doves and his assorted sentient mechanical gizmos are happy to share their home with Thunder. Despite their scheming, Jack and Maggie will not really be House’s villains. Those duties fall upon Lawrence’s slimy realtor nephew, who wants to get his hands on his uncle’s prime real estate.

House is one of the more conventional programming selections at this year’s NYICFF, but for kids who dig kitties and bunnies, it is pretty sure fire stuff. Both Thunder and Jack are quite expressively rendered and there is nothing remotely objectionable to concern parents, unless they are realtors too.

Yes, it is all very cute and furry, but for older animation fans the real story is the quality of House’s 3D. Clearly conceived with the process in mind, the various scenes of swooping doves, leaping kitties, and skittering critters are conducive a far more dramatic and immersive experience than the occasional pointy object jutting out from the screen. Quite superior to most tent-pole 3D fixer-ups, House ranks somewhere just below the awesome spectacle of Tsui Hark’s Flying Swords of Dragon Gate.

While the 3D experience will impress viewers of all ages, the humor is definitely aimed at a younger demographic. For the record, it killed at its first NYICFF screening. Recommended for youngsters who love kitties, bunnies, and hocus pocus, House of Magic 3D screens again on Saturday March 29th at the Village East, as part of this year’s NYICFF.