The Magic Roundabout (U)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner07/02/2005

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 82 mins

Enjoyable cartoon comedy, though it’s aimed more at today’s young audiences than at 30-something nostalgia-seekers.

If you’re in your 30s, the chances are you have very fond memories of teatime favourite The Magic Roundabout. Originally produced in France, the BBC bought several episodes and entrusted them to childrens’ television genius Eric Thompson (Emma Thompson’s father), who came up with new storylines and narration.

Sugar-Addicted Dog Unleashes Pure Evil

Surprisingly, the show became the UK’s second most-watched programme, after the news. In the 1990s, a number of unseen episodes were unearthed and Nigel Planer provided the voices, gaining the show a new audience of both kids and young adults.

Given that The Magic Roundabout has a built-in audience that spans four generations, it’s surprising that it has taken them so long to get around to a new feature-length version – hardcore devotees may remember the bizarre previous feature, Dougal and the Blue Cat – but The Magic Roundabout has been given a CGI makeover and an impressive voiceover cast for the 21st century. As such, it’s bound to prove a hit with young children, although nostalgia-seekers may be a little disappointed. (Amusingly, it has been re-titled Sprung! for the American market.).

The story is very simple. After sugar-addicted shaggy dog Dougal (Robbie Williams) accidentally releases evil magician Zeebad (Tom Baker) from his prison within the Magic Roundabout, he sets off to find three magic diamonds, before Zeebad encases the world in ice. Dougal is accompanied on his quest by his friends Brian the Snail (Jim Broadbent), Dylan the seemingly stoned rabbit (Bill Nighy) and Ermintrude the singing cow (Joanna Lumley), with occasional appearances by spring-loaded wizard Zebedee (Ian McKellen).

The original cartoons were stop-motion animation, but the transition to all-singing, all-dancing CGI hasn’t affected the characters in any noticeable way. The only real difference is that Dougal is more of a hyperactive character with a higher-pitched voice than his rather Eeyore-like, vaguely misanthropic 1970s counterpart.

Plot Has One Eye On Console Tie-In

The voice cast give superb comic performances, particularly Joanna Lumley, Bill Nighy and Tom Baker. Though the initial announcement of his involvement might have seemed like stunt casting, Robbie Williams actually does a surprisingly good job as Dougal, although Kylie Minogue’s role as Florence amounts to little more than a cameo. There’s also good support from Ray Winstone as Zeebad’s reluctant henchman and Lee Evans as the train.

It’s worth noting that a feature-length movie was never going to be that similar to the TV show, as each episode was only five minutes long, though the plot does seem to have been written with one eye on the inevitable video-game tie-in. It’s also a shame that the film-makers couldn’t find room to include the original Magic Roundabout theme tune, though at least they haven’t toned down the Dylan character or the none-too-subtle hints that sugar = DRUGS. The musical sequences are pretty good too – particularly Dylan and Ermintrude’s rendition of The Kinks’ You Really Got Me.

In short, The Magic Roundabout is an enjoyable family film that will delight young audiences and is liable to send nostalgic 30-somethings on a (sadly, futile) quest to find the original series on DVD. Worth seeing.

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Content updated: 20/04/2019 20:05

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