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The Magic Roundabout Review

Image for The Magic Roundabout

After Dougal (Williams) accidentally releases evil Zeebad (Tom Baker) from his prison, he and his pals Ermintrude (Lumley), Brian (Broadbent) and Dylan (Nighy) embark on a quest to find three magic diamonds before Zeebad uses them to encase the world in ice.

★★★★★

More than 40 years on from its first broadcast, the children's stop-frame animated series The Magic Roundabout is something of a TV legend - at one point it was the second most-watched programme after the news. Originally made in France, it was bought by the BBC for broadcast here and Eric Thompson (dad of Emma) supplied new storylines and narration, delivering a healthy dose of dry wit to teatime viewing in tales that featured a seemingly stoned rabbit called Dylan, a shaggy, sugar-addict dog named Dougal, the highly sprung, vast-'tached magician Zebedee, Ermintrude the singing cow and Brian the smart-but-slow snail.

Grown-up fans delighted in the series' supposed drug-culture references and political satire, but (and let's be honest) were as enchanted by its cuteness as the children at which it was aimed. So a 21st century movie update of classic kiddies' telly is a brilliant idea, as those nostalgic for the show can not only visit the Magic Roundabout once again, but introduce their own children to it, too.

Of course, this version is far slicker and attempts a bit of Hollywood-style action-adventure grandstanding, but it works both as a trip down memory lane and as an entertaining movie for (very) young children. The characters are now CGI - albeit rather below Pixar standard - but still look much like the Ermintrude, Dougal and Brian of old (Florence is a bit scary though, with teeny-weeny creepy eyes). The writers, meanwhile, have kept in some of the adult humour; at one point, Dylan wisely advises Dougal to lay off the sugar, as once you have one iced bun it's hard not to eat the whole box. Plus, they've thrown in some '70s musical moments (Dylan and Ermintrude's rendition of The Kinks' You Really Got Me is superb) and have enticingly given the characters very famous voices - it's strangely appropriate that Zebedee shares the same vocal chords as Gandalf.

While this may not be a Shrek-like experience guaranteed to deliver a pan-demographic smash - teens certainly won't be impressed by the simple, videogame-ish plot - it is, at least, spot-on for Brit tots too young for Harry Potter and too discerning for Tweenies.

Funny, sweet and eccentric. It'll indulge anyone still misty-eyed with nostalgia for the original, and thrill anyone who's under eight.