The Swan Princess
1994 Directed by Richard Rich. Starring John Cleese, Sandy Duncan, Jack Palance, Steven Wright.
REVIEWED By Hollis Chacona, Fri., Nov. 25, 1994
A spirited princess, a valiant prince, a villainous sorcerer, a supercilious frog, a faithful turtle, and a spunky puffin. Put them together and what have you got? No, not Cinderella or even a movie of its caliber. What you do have is The Swan Princess, a full-length, animated feature directed by Richard Rich, a veteran of Disney productions such as Pete's Dragon, The Rescuers and The Fox and the Hound. The Swan Princess begins promisingly enough with a rousing, funny song about the from-birth pairing of neighboring royals, Prince Derek and Princess Odette. And, as long as the two detest one another, it's a pretty entertaining story. But, inevitably, Odette turns from ugly tomboy duckling into a Barbie doll swan and it becomes the kind of movie only a seven-year old girl could love. (Mine did.) The movie's stab at political correctness -- Odette spurns her new-found love when he makes it clear that the only reason for his change of heart is her physical beauty -- is cut short when the princess is taken captive by the evil enchanter Rothbart and can only be saved by -- well, you know the story. Jack Palance's vocalization is fun, but the dastardly Rothbart is more vanilla than villain, neither evil enough (e.g. any Disney stepmother) nor eccentric enough (e.g. 101 Dalmatians' Cruella DeVil or Robin Hood's Prince John) to really spice things up. Likewise, the sidekicks Jean-Bob, the dandy French frog (Cleese), and Speedy, the true-blue turtle (Wright), are mildly amusing, but knowing the talent behind the voices, you can't help but wish that they'd had a hand in the writing as well. Still, the picture has a certain sweetness about it that melds nicely with its old-fashioned look (the cels are all hand-drawn and hand-colored) and the characters are not totally without charm. What it boils down to is that The Swan Princess just doesn't have that old bibbity bobbity boo.