Dec 26, 2014

Review: The Swan Princess: A Royal Family Tale (2014)

It's not easy seeing a sequel when the predecessor was just so good at being unbelievably bad. Director Richard Rich who's been around since the beginning of The Swan Princess film series returns once again to pelt more eggs at something that was once halfway respectable. The original The Swan Princess wasn't quite able to measure up to its Disney peers, but there's nothing like a little competition and you had to respect Rich for that. 

With two middling sequels that followed in 1997 and 1998, Richard Rich thought it would be a good idea for some reason to make yet another Swan Princess sequel after no one cared anymore, make it a Christmas film and replace the traditional cel animation with CGI. If that's not selling out, I don't know what is. The Swan Princess: A Royal Family Tale is the follow-up to The Swan Princess Christmas and it looks every bit as bad as you'd expect.

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Genre: animation, family, fantasy
Directed by: Richard Rich
Produced by: Jared F. Brown, Richard Rich, Rituraj Sethia, etc.
Written by: Brian Nissen
Music by: J Bateman, Jenny Frogley
Running time: 84 minutes
Production company: Crest Animation Productions, Motion Makers Animation Studio Pvt. Ltd., Nest Family Entertainment
Distributed by: Sony Pictures, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Elle Deets, Yuri Lowenthal, Jennifer Miller, Joseph Medrano, David Lodge, Clayton James Mackay, Gardner Jass, Doug Stone, Joseph Medrano, Joey Lotsko, Jeff Michaels, Kirk Thornton, Brian Nissen, Catherine Lavine, Carly G. Fogelson, Kathryn S. Hill, David Osmond, Jan Broberg

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The Forbidden Arts (voice: David Lodge) are revealed to be a sentient and evil energy force that centuries ago tried to destroy all other powers in the world. Discovering a prophesy on a stone tablet about a Swan Princess that would hold power able to withstand its own, the Forbidden Arts changes the text of the legend and paints the Swan Princess to be evil. This in turn inspires a tribe of flying squirrels called scullians to train for generations in order to defend themselves against her. Even with the scullians fooled, unless the Forbidden Arts can get a certain green crystal, Odette (voice: Elle Deets) will remain invincible to its powers.

Writer Brian Nissen intelligently skipped The Swan Princess Christmas, but for whatever reason he decided to come back for A Royal Family Tale. He's never been able to strike me as much of a storyteller, but here he outdoes any of his past failures with The Swan Princess and its sequels with this awful story. He still insists on having the Forbidden Arts as part of the story and he even makes it a character this time. (Spoilers) At least Odette isn't turned into a swan for once. (End Spoilers)

Elements like the prophesy tablet and the green crystal are shoehorned into the story as roughly as can be. There was never a prophesy before, the green crystal is just a random plot device and didn't Rothbart randomly choose to turn Odette into a swan anyway? But he was acting through the Forbidden Arts as is revealed, so does that mean that a swan is the only animal Odette can turn into? Did the act of turning her into a swan make her the Swan Princess? I just don't get it and there's probably no point in getting it anyway.

Another piece of the plot that really ended up annoying me is that Odette and Derek (voice: Yuri Lowenthal) are thinking of having children. What ends up happening is that they adopt Alise (voice: Carly G. Fogelson) who's father dies in a fire. Brian Nissen then decides to show us exactly what a stereotypical fantasy princess lifestyle is like for Alise, with lots of clothes, a poney and every other luxury a princess would need. You'd honestly think this segment were a commercial for a line of princess Barbies. (Spoilers) Following this, she becomes a basic kidnapped kid plot device. After all the kidnappings that have happened before, you'd think that someone in this kingdom would learn from these mistakes (End Spoilers)

The animation in A Royal Family Tale is every bit as bad as it was in The Swan Princess Christmas. Hilarious attempts at making things look lifelike do the exact opposite, Odette's hair being one of the best examples of that. It's never able to not look like one big solid mass. Despite some attempts at facial expressions, characters look empty inside and are incapable of showing any real emotion. You could have better expression in a stone carving that doesn't move. Besides that, any sort of motion looks very off and just lazy.

There are three songs in this film and strangely enough they all occur within a minute of the other. I don't think I've never seen that before and it's as bad as you'd imagine. There are the annoying modern touches that don't belong in a fantasy story like this one and the lyrics are embarrassing for any singer to have to perform.

Is there any point to The Swan Princess: A Royal Family Tale? Besides money there certainly isn't and I can't imagine there being much demand from Swan Princess fans after The Swan Princess Christmas. The only way Nest and Crest will get their production costs back is by fooling people who aren't familiar with The Swan Princess and what it has become. I hope really that doesn't happen because kids deserve better than this. Odette, Derek and their gang of animals pals also deserve to be put out of their misery instead of this slow death they've been forced to endure. Richard Rich, no more Swan Princess, please!

2.5/10