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Director Qui Nguyen’s Strange World is feel good family entertainment

By Jana Monji, AsAmNews Arts & Culture Writer

Scripted by Arkansas-born Asian American Qui Nguyen who co-directs with Don Hall, Strange World is a 3D-animated adventure that transforms the Lost World genre into an expedition into diversity. This father-and-son tale has subtle messages about cooperation and tolerance. It’s the kind of feel-good family entertainment the whole family can enjoy at different levels.

The fictional Avalonia is cut off from other civilizations, trapped by high mountains. The larger and boisterous Jaeger Clade (voiced by Dennis Quaid) leads an expedition to find a passage beyond the icy mountains with a team that includes his much smaller, normal-sized son, Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal). Searcher discovers an unusual plant that seems to produce electricity. Believing that this plant may hold the future of their homeland’s energy concerns, Searcher wants to turn back with the rest of the expedition, but Jaeger goes on alone, never returning to Avalonia.

Flash forward and Searcher is now a father to a gay 16-year-old boy, Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White). Focusing on that mysterious plant, Searcher has developed it as a major crop and the energy source for all of Avalonia. Now married to a crop duster, Meridian (Gabrielle Union), Searcher is a farmer who hopes his son, Ethan, will follow in his footsteps, but Ethan may be more explorer like Jaeger than a farmer like Searcher.

A blight strikes this mysterious electrical plant crop, and Avalonia’s, Callisto Mal (Lucy Liu), asks Searcher to join her expedition to trace the source of the problems. Through a series of mishaps, Ethan and Meridian become part of the expedition that takes them to the titular Strange World. Once in that world, the expedition finds Jaeger who has been surviving for decades in this threatening world.

In the end, the natural balance and cooperation between the two worlds becomes the solution to the problem. The environmental message isn’t heavy handed.

Directors Hall and Nguyen have given this feature a wonderful flow and the humor and tonal shifts are seamless. The diversity is there in a way that feels effortlessly natural, and animal lovers will appreciate the inclusion of a “tripawd” dog that is exuberant, but is introduced without an expository segment.

Strange World premiered at El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles on 15 November 2022 and was released on 23 November 2022 nationwide.

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