THE HOUSE OF MAGIC (G)
An abandoned tomcat seeks refuge in a mansion that appears to be haunted, only to find that its owner is a benevolent magician.
Lawrence - or The Illustrious Lorenzo, as emblazoned on posters from his heyday - christens the puss Thunder and welcomes him to his eccentric menagerie of animals and animated objects.
However, not all of the manor's inhabitants welcome our young feline protagonist.
Jack - self-appointed head of the house and bunny-in-charge - and Maggie - a mouse who bullies Thunder but is afraid of him actually - are envious of the attention their master lavishes on the newcomer, and plot to get him kicked out.
Meanwhile, Lawrence's devious real-estate-agent nephew, Daniel, schemes to con his uncle into selling his house.
When the magician ends up in hospital from an accident, it is up to Thunder and his new family to defend their home.
StudioCanal and nWave Pictures' charming animated feature hardly has any new tricks up its sleeve when it comes to the plot.
The premise of a deserted pet finding love again has been done before in films like Bolt, while the home-invasion theme is reminiscent of that of Mousehunt and Home Alone.
Jack and Maggie's antics of sabotage also recall those of Woody trying to get rid of Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story.
Where the film shines, though, is its adorable characters and gorgeous set design.
Thunder is a big-hearted, doe-eyed hero worth rooting for, while Lawrence's childish innocence and clumsiness is endearing.
Of the house's ragtag crew, Carlo and Carla - a pair of amorous lovebirds - and Edison - a peppy light bulb on legs - are the standouts.
The giddy action set pieces remind me of those in motion-simulation rides, which is not surprising considering the movie was adapted from a 12-minute 4D attraction film called Haunted House from around a decade ago, according to co-director Ben Stassen.
The Tex Avery-style animation - reminiscent of cartoon classics like those starring Bugs Bunny - conjures up a few laughs, while the film's beautiful mise en scene - such as sunset-lit streets lined with autumn leaves - are lovely to watch.
Ramin Djawadi, who scored the soundtracks of Iron Man and Pacific Rim, turns in a serviceable effort here.
All in all, The House Of Magic has some spellbinding flourishes, but it needs to work on its patter.
Kids will love this family-friendly flick for its cute critters and slapstick jokes.
But those who seek deep characterisation, like in Monsters University, or meaningful themes, like those in Spirited Away, are better off looking for another act.
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