A Jake Gyllenhaal Flop Is Conquering The Streaming Charts

The Jake Gyllenhaal flop Strange World is the #3 most-watched movie on Disney+.

By Nathan Kamal | Published

jake gyllenhaal strange world

Sometimes, a film that utterly flops in the theaters finds its true home on video cassette, DVD, or nowadays, streaming platforms. That is most definitely the case with the recent Jake Gyllenhaal movie Strange World, which tanked about as hard as a Disney movie ever has over a Thanksgiving weekend when first released. However, now that it is on Disney+, Jake Gyllenhaal’s Strange World has immediately become one of the service’s most popular movies, currently at #3 most watched (being beaten out by the unstoppable nostalgia of Home Alone movies).

Jake Gyllenhaal stars in Strange World as Searcher Clade, a scion of a family of adventurers with a name that is just maybe a little too on the nose. He is the son of the legendary explorer Jaeger Clade (whose first name pointedly translates from German as “hunter”), voiced by Dennis Quaid doing a tolerable John Goodman impression, and seems to have been raised from birth to follow in his father’s footsteps. 

jake gyllenhaal strange world

The movie begins with Jake Gyllenhaal and Dennis Quaid’s characters on an expedition from a country named Avalonia, attempting to cross an impenetrable wall of mountains that have kept everyone in known history from leaving their country. However, on the way to the mountains, Jake Gyllenhaal’s character finds a strange plant (Strange World, get it?) that seems to generate a natural electrical charge that could serve as a clean energy source. Father and son argue whether it is more vital to use the discovery they’ve found or continue to explore the world in search of glory, and end up in an acrimonious separation.  

Time-jump 25 years later and Jake Gyllenhaal’s character is now a well-regarded farmer and discoverer of the plant energy known as Plando, while Dennis Quaid’s character has been missing for years and is presumed dead. Gyllenhaal’s Searcher Clade has his own son Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White, playing the first Disney animated LGBTQ+ character), a bold pilot wife named Meridian (Gabrielle Union), and a fervent desire to not be like his father. 

All seems well until the president of Avalonia (Lucy Liu) shows up to say Plando is losing its power, and the underground roots of the mother plant have been located. Jake Gyllenhaal’s character plus his family pile into an airship to explore a strange new world underground. 

In many ways, it is easy to see why Strange World bombed at the box office. While its trippy visuals of the underground world and creature design for the organisms that live below the Avalonians’ feet are top-notch, the story is at once both a little rote and a bit too heady for young children. On one side, the characters played by Jake Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid, and Jaboukie Young-White all learn to respect their generational differences in a very predictable Strange World subplot about growing up to be the things you hate in your parents. On the other, the movie explores concepts of macro-ecosystems, climate change, and mankind’s place in the universe. In short, it’s both too little and kind of a lot.

But audiences can find that out for themselves, and it sounds like they are. Jake Gyllenhaal and the trippy steampunk imagery of Strange World might have failed at the box office, but they’re breaking new ground on Disney+.