Upside-Down Magic is a book series written by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins. (I distinctly remember reading Myracle’s Eleven as a kid.) This film was directed by Joe Nussbaum, and its teleplay was written by Josh A. Cagan and Nick Pustay. Gordon Rempel won a Leo Award on this film for best editing. This was my second time seeing the DCOM, and I remembered a lot of it from last year. Although Auradon in Descendants is technically magical, Upside-Down Magic is the first Disney Channel project to send its characters to a magic training school à la Harry Potter since that stint on Wizards of Waverly Place where the Russos went to Wiz Tech.
Nory (Izabela Rose) and her BFF Reina (Siena Agudong) are moving into Sage Academy. We don’t really know where it is in relation to the rest of the world, but parents drop off their kids in a forest. I love that Kyle Howard from The Paper Brigade has a prominent role in this film. He’s the groundskeeper of Sage and promptly tells all the parents he’ll see them at Thanksgiving. The children have to test their magical abilities right away, and everybody falls into one of four categories: Fluxers, Flares, Flickers, and Fuzzies (yikes, sounds too much like Furries). Reina is a flare, meaning she can make fire. Nory is a fluxer, meaning that she can shapeshift into different animals. Nory can’t turn into just one animal, though…
I’m convinced that the writers of the books/movie must know Disney’s The Wuzzles, an animated series that debuted in the ’80s on CBS. Each Wuzzle is made up of two animals, which are reflected in most of the characters’ names: Bumblelion, Butterbear, Rhinokey, Eleroo, Hoppopotamus, Moosel, Crocosaurus, Brat, Tycoon, and Flizard. In Upside-Down Magic, Nory transforms herself into similar multi-creature combos, including a dritten (dragon/kitten) — the form that ultimately enables her to save the day. Because Nory can’t practice magic in the prescribed way, Sage Academy banishes her to the woods and labels her “UDM” (Upside-Down Magic). The other three UDMs have malfunctioning magic, too, from accidentally levitating with force, to flying and not being able to come down, to making smoke instead of fire. Legend has it that a former UDM could only create fire by farting it from his butt. That student began practicing “shadow magic” and gave all UDMs a bad name, so the school tries to wean them off their magic and return them to a non-magical existence. However, the expectations are flipped on who is actually evil, and top flare student Reina is lured into shadow magic by the ghost of a former Sage Academy student. Kind of Tom Riddle-esque, if you ask me.
If I had children interested in magic movies, this would be a nice watch for them. The four UDMs train with Kyle Howard’s character, Budd Skriff, to learn how to use their wonky magic. Nory has to fight her flame-throwing best friend at the end and then save Reina’s life. With the final shadow magic book scene, the door is open for a sequel. I would watch it!