Jeremy Degruson and Ben Stassen’s animated Thunder and the House of Magic kicks off with an unconscionable act of cruelty: A family abandons a cat on the street, leaving him to desperately dodge traffic. We know the orange tabby Thunder (Murray Blue) isn’t going to get run over — not even a family film produced through Belgian tax shelters would get so dark so quickly — but it sets a jarring tone, particularly since the scene is an excuse for the first of the film’s many POV-heavy chase sequences.
The story is serviceable enough: Thunder finds his way into the spooky home of a kindly old children’s magician (Doug Stone), and must band together with the distrustful resident animals to prevent the magician’s evil real-estate agent nephew (Grant George) from selling the house when the geezer is hospitalized.
The 3D-ready chases are the movie’s raison d’être, recalling Degruson and Stassen’s IMAX 3D short Haunted Castle, and while Thunder was indeed designed to be shown in 3D, the fact that it’s being projected domestically in 2D makes the theme-park ride sequences all the more tiresome. But Murray Blue does good voice work as constantly imperiled Thunder, and precious few theme park rides feature subplots about the real estate market.