The Magic Roundabout
2.5/5US title: Doogal
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Jean Duval, Frank Passingham, Dave Borthwick
scr Paul Bassett Davies
original voices Robbie Williams, Bill Nighy, Joanna Lumley, Jim Broadbent, Ian McKellen, Tom Baker, Ray Winstone, Lee Evans, Kylie Minogue
US voices Chevy Chase, Judi Dench, Jimmy Fallon, Whoopi Goldberg, William H Macy, Ian McKellen, Kevin Smith, Jon Stewart
release UK 11.Feb.05, US 24.Feb.06
05/UK Pathé 1h22

A big adventure: Dougal, Dylan and Ermintrude

williams nighy lumley minogue broadbent mckellen
The Magic Roundabout Britain's cult classic 1960s children's series gets the feature film treatment, and boy does it. Not content with reproducing the surreal style of the original series (a French show dubbed into English), the filmmakers merely put the characters into the standard kiddie movie cliche.

In a mythical enchanted village, sugar-loving dog Doogal (voiced by Williams) provokes a battle between arch-nemesis Jacks-in-the-box Zebedee and Zeebad (McKellen and Baker). To rescue his master Florence (Minogue) and foil Zeebad's nefarious plan to freeze the sun (!), Dougal joins with his oddball gang of pals: opera-singing cow Ermintrude (Lumley), stoner-rocker bunny Dylan (Nighy) and perky snail Brian (Broadbent).

The extremely random characters make this film so bizarre that you can't take your eyes off it. And the animation is inventive in a minimalist sort of way (it seems like only five people actually live in this enchanted village). The script is also full of clever dialog, from sharp interaction to witty plays on the TV series' supposed druggy subtext. So it's a shame that the plot lacks even a shred of originality.

Not that it isn't entertaining. Even the bog standard set pieces are enjoyable--crossing a churning lava lake on a rickety stone bridge, an Ice Age glacial slip-n-slide, an Indiana Jones booby-trapped temple, a climactic train rollercoaster ride. And the cast is good too. Williams is energetic and endearing, Lumley is a hilarious drama queen, and Nighy delivers all the best lines with sheer perfection. Baker is snarly and spitty, sounding intriguingly like an evil McKellen, who's often a bit too Gandolf-like. But that's hardly a liability.

There's a lot of obvious affection for both the characters and the phenomenon, so it's a shame more effort wasn't made to come up with a storyline as bracingly original and anarchic as the TV series was. If there was ever a chance to shatter the overused Hollywood formula, this was it! But clearly, the investors were afraid to rock the boat. They may do all right at the box office as a result, but they've missed the chance to make a film that does justice to their source material.

cert u suspense, some innuendo 16.Jan.04

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... The Magic Roundabout Steven Harker, North Yorkshire: 2/5 "Used my children as an excuse to go see this (big fan of the original when I was a kid). Some delightful moments and good one-liners but not enough to stop it being an overall disapointment. My children (10-year-old twins) liked it, but my son thought that he was almost too old for it. Most of the one-liners went over their heads; either too subtle or too old. Where can we get [the 1970 Magic Roundabout movie] Doogal & the Blue Cat?" (14.Feb.05)
© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall