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The Magic Roundabout (U)

Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES (2-DISC): Disc One: Hidden Magic. Our hero’s and villains. Magical Voices. Quiz. UK Premiere.
Disc Two: The Sound of Magic. Trailers and TV spots. Re-imagining the Magic. Storyboard gallery. Cast and crew biographies. Music of the Magic. Classic black and white TV episodes. Origins of the Magic.

IT'S been over forty years since The Magic Roundabout first set about captivating children with its innocent tales of a dog named Dougal, a cow named Ermintrude and a bouncing, moustachioed wizard named Zebedee (among others).

Yet given the current trend for reviving old classics, it is little wonder to find that these old favourites have been dusted off and given a CGI makeover for the big screen in the hope of enchanting young viewers once again.

What's surprising is just how enjoyable the result is, given that the cartoon format of the series didn't automatically lend itself to a cinematic venture.

But having assembled a fine cast of some of Britain's best actors, as well as two pop superstars, the makers of The Magic Roundabout have delivered a good-looking, child-friendly adventure that really ought to bring Zebedee and co a new army of young fans.

And while it may not stand up to comparison with the best animated works of the moment - such as Shrek or The Incredibles - it remains an amicable entry nonetheless.

The plot centres around the evil sorcerer, Zeebad (voiced by former Dr Who, Tom Baker), and his dastardly mission to enslave the earth and freeze it over.

Having unwittingly been released by the sugar-loving dog, Dougal (Robbie Williams), Zeebad wastes no time in putting his evil plans into play, also targeting his nemesis, Zebedee (Sir Ian McKellen) into the bargain.

Therefore it is left to Dougal and his unlikely accomplices to save the day, as they set off on an epic adventure to capture three magic diamonds that can reverse the onset of the permafrost that threatens the existence of The Enchanted Village and Dougal's beloved Florence (Kylie Minogue), who has become trapped in the ice.

Helping Dougal, therefore, is lovesick snail, Brian (Jim Broadbent), opera-singing cow, Ermintrude (Joanna Lumley), spaced-out, guitar-playing rabbit, Dylan (Bill Nighy) and an affable red train (Lee Evans).

Their ensuing trip sees them having to navigate the bubbling lava of a fiery volcano, before trekking deep into the heart of a treacherous tropical temple and across a vast icy wilderness and snow-capped peaks, all the while being pursued by Zeebad and his henchman, Soldier Sam (Ray Winstone).

Needless to say, the adventure in question is far-removed from the mild-mannered antics of the television series, and there are times when the film feels like it is borrowing a little too heavily from the likes of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Yet for all of its little flaws, the film remains an engaging experience, thanks largely to the efforts of its cast.

Nighy, Broadbent and Evans, in particular, lend proceedings an easy-going charm, even if some of their lines seem forced, while even Williams helps to ensure that Dougal is likeable (especially to the little ones).

And it was a measure of the film's success that the children laughed in all the right places when it was screened early one Sunday morning.

Performances aside, the film also looks good with the animation both inventive and colourful.

And there are even some knowing nods to to the apocryphal stories surrounding the old cartoon (especially the drug-culture fantasy), which should keep the adults amused.

These are subtly conveyed, however, making this first and foremost a film for the children as much as the nostalgic among you.

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