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The Swan Princess: A Royal Wedding (Movie Review)

Walt Disney Studios isn’t the only animation department crafting fairy tale princess franchises these days. Sony Pictures has had their own animation and own princess franchise going for a while now. Granted, its much less high profile and well, its very much straight to video on demand services, but it exists nonetheless. I’m referring to The Swan Princess. Through my research, since rebooting the film with new animation in 2014 (Originally a Sony hand drawn animated film back 1994), there have been a handful of entries in this magical world of a princess that once took the form of a swan. This latest entry, The Swan Princess: A Royal Wedding, arrived for consumption on August 4th. This latest entry give focus less on our Swan Princess and introduces us to a Japanese princess Mei Li and her struggles against sorcery and transformations.

Join Princess Odette, Prince Derek and their royal friends as they set sail for another magical adventure in the enchanted land of Cathay! Princess Odette has been called by the beautiful Princess Mei Li who is planning to marry her one true love, Chen. Upon Odette’s arrival she quickly discovers that everything is not as it should be. And not everyone is WHO they should be! The evil sorceress Fang has once again cast an evil spell, launching a plan to marry Chen herself. With the wedding quickly approaching, it is up to Mei Li’s loving brother Prince Li along with Princess Odette and the rest of her royal friends to break the curse so the real Princess Mei Li can marry Chen and live happily ever after.

This ninth film in the legacy of The Swan Princess takes our focus to Princess Mei Li, having troubles with her father’s acceptance in her choice of beau and his trust in a sorcerer at his right hand. Much of this is summed up all too quickly in a prologue for the film that makes one feel a little lost and caught off guard. Its quite a choppy introduction that perhaps came off the heels of pre-established materials I hadn’t seen yet (A Royal Wedding is my first foray into the Swan-verse). Even after the film had started, I felt behind and was struggling to connect the dots until a little over a third of the film having passed by. Ultimately, the film begins coasting comfortably, but it was quite jarring to open.

Magic is abound in this plot as it features some shape shifting and animal morphing that all seem to be in tune with The Swan Princess, but molding it to be more akin with Japanese culture. Princess Mei Li does kind of get sidelined in her own story, but still is plenty there to make an impact. If anything while Princess Odette isn’t the focus, it showcases her dedication to honesty and friendship, making her quite integral to the plot. And seeing as she is the titular character of the franchise, it makes sense. Plus, there is some fun to be had with the mingling of her supporting cast to go along with the new supporting cast for Princess Mei Li.

While not calling this one a straight musical, it does feature a few songs in the film to help brush some extras strokes onto the picture. Surprisingly, it does succeed in the song department. Quite possibly this is the where the film earns its highest mark. No, there aren’t any showstoppers or ones you’ll find yourself singing to yourself in the shower for weeks afterward. But, while you’re in the moment, there are some songs that really support the film and find themselves plenty catchy enough to engage the scene and charm its way to the next. In particular, there’s a scene where Prince Derek is trying to learn Japanese terminology with the help of Mei Li’s brother and fiance that is quite fun in both song and presentation.

The animation on the film feels a bit dated in its execution. Now, I’m sure this thing was working on a budget a small fraction the size that of a Pixar or Illumination film, but it still felt much older than it is. With the lacking detail and movements it felt very much in the vein of something from the early to mid-2000s. If you’ve ever seen the CG cartoon version of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, its very close to that style of animation. Nothing is horrid, but it is lacking. There was a guy who transformed into a dragon early on and it looked scary in a “what the hell am I looking at sort of way.” The face of it appears like someone replaced one of the wall graphics on Wolfenstein 3-D with their own photo and it stretched distorted badly. Nothing else reaches those depths, but its surprising to see that left in the final product.

Admittedly, this movie wasn’t aimed at me and I’m not surprised it wasn’t my cup of tea (Neither are you if you’ve been reading this review and are still with me at this point). So, it doesn’t matter my thoughts on it. My six year old daughter on the other hand? She was fully engaged throughout, wanting to discuss the intricate details she was discovering as well as wondering how the plot would go. THAT’S who this is for. And as of writing this, we first watched it three days ago and she has gone back to it and watched it in full three times since that first viewing. Despite my words as a critic here, The Swan Princess absolutely succeeds in pleasing its target audience and should definitely be checked out by those with young children.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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