The Swan Princess: Ain’t No Disney, But Not That Bad Either

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Well, this is certainly a mood swing from my last review.

I feel like I’m making a response to the Nostalgia Critic’s review, in a way. Say what you want about The Swan Princess and its obvious coattail-riding of Disney’s aesthetics and formula. It has nice music that doesn’t sound too similar, its animation is gorgeous, and it is both intentionally and unintentionally hilarious.

The story of the film follows the basics of Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet Swan Lake. A princess changes into a swan and a prince attempts to rescue her, only to initially betray her by promising to marry the wrong, if similar-looking, woman. It’s certainly a better adaptation of the source material than the Warner Bros./Rankin-Bass The King and I, but, as you might expect, it gets flack for being diet Disney; possessing only half of the flavor of the original with even less of the substance.

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That’s true. I can’t deny it. But I will also admit that copy-cating doesn’t bother me as much when it comes to Disney, because I like Disney. As far as my child brain was concerned, more things like Disney were great. I’m the kind of girl who goes looking through albums on iTunes and am disappointed when I can’t find songs that sound similar to the ones I like. Not identical, but similar in that they are exciting, ear-wormy, or fun.

My former child brain and current adult brain agree 100% here: I’d rather watch the likes of Anastasia, Thumbelina, or The Swan Princess over Cinderella 2, The Little Mermaid 2, or The Hunchback of Notre Dame 2 any day. At least they were better animated. They aren’t masterpieces by any means, but at least they didn’t take movies that were good and spit polish their inbred offspring for a few extra bucks.

Well, except for Bartok the Magnificent, but as I said, what it’s spinning off from wasn’t that great to begin with…and The Swan Princess sequels…which have gotten progressively worse over time.

…Never mind what I said.

The Swan Princess on its own is charming enough. The characters are fine, and the singing and scoring are very nice to listen to. The only song I don’t care for is No Fear; I don’t hate it, but it in a “fun for the whole family” kind of movie, No Fear definitely comes across as more infantile than the others.

Strangely enough, No Fear was not included on the DVD that offered sing-a-long portions. Apparently, even the movie itself thinks poorly of it.

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Derek does archery and hunting, and he ditches his mother and cowering best friend whenever it suits him. He is the stronger of the two mains, in my opinion. Odette, much like Derek, has a lot of personality as a child, but becomes Pocahontas-level bland as an adult. She does, however, have some guts, standing up to a wizard who can literally turn into a monster at a whim and bantering with him.

My personal favorite scenes are the song sequences for This is My Idea, Practice, Practice, Practice, and despite its goofiness, Princesses on Parade. A lot of energy was put into them in particular, making for a fun watch full of smooth movements and popping colors.

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It definitely was not meant to appeal to boys. I know guys who willing watch Disney princess movies, (never alone though) but I don’t think even they’d like The Swan Princess. Also, I agree with Doug Walker (NC): there is a lot of stuff that is silly or just plain doesn’t make sense. And that, coming from a Disney impersonator, looks extra lazy.

But I also maintain that it makes the movie hilarious. The actions that characters didn’t think through, the unfortunate implications nobody planned on; these are the things that make The Swan Princess so bad that it’s kind of good.

And so now, I present to you: The Plot-Hole Plethora!

Here is some stuff that even Doug missed in his review.

1. Did Odette’s mother die in childbirth? King William shows no sadness once the baby is in his arms, and he takes her outside to rip off The Lion King with the waiting happy crowd.

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2. And was she really the queen, or did William just steal a child from a noble or off of the street and claim it as his own? The line starts with “Then a daughter was born. A princess,” and there is a pause between the statements, like the second one is an afterthought. O.o It makes you wonder how old and lonely he was getting, and how desperate that might have made him.

3. Rothbart directly threatens the king AND WILLIAM LETS HIM GO ANYWAY. THAT’S NOT JUST “TOO KIND” OR EVEN STUPID; THAT IS CERTIFIABLY INSANE!

A MAN IS STILL DANGEROUS WITHOUT MAGIC, YOU KNOW.

4. Rothbart gives a half-assed explanation for why he doesn’t just take over the kingdom or even forcibly marry Odette, but we never get a backstory or even an explanation of this “once you steal something, you spend your whole life fighting to keep it” mindset, so it just serves as a flimsy defense against taking the obvious course of action.

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5. Why a swan? Really, what’s the significance in context? Why not a moose or a ladybug or Jimmy Hoffa?

6. I believe that the filmmakers want to hint that some time has passed since Odette disappeared, but it feels more like a few days because there’s no transition (for example, the This is My Idea song is one big transition scene).

7. Following on the previous thought, it seems strange that Queen Uberta (voiced randomly by Sandy Duncan, of all people), William’s long-time friend and fellow conspirator, A) shows no visible sorrow or regret for her friend’s passing, and B) shrugs off his daughter’s kidnapping and very likely murder. She only showed disappointment after Derek and Odette had an argument, which basically shoves her otherwise flighty, air-headed but still likeable personality out the window.

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Again, consider the fact that she has spent 18-20 something years on this marriage plot, and appears to be over it very quickly. It’s kind of despicable.

8. This isn’t a plot-hole, but I just thought it deserves comment. Brom and the rest of the castle staff desperately need a union.

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Also, Lord Rogers is the best character.

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9. Derek has superhuman hearing and reflexes. He catches an arrow fired at his back and fires it right back, splitting the apple on Brom’s head. This certainly isn’t a random but blatant set up for the climax at all. Nope. Not at all.

10. Odette talks a good game about never giving up her father’s kingdom willingly, but other than that, she shows no concern for the fate of her people, or even sadness over the fact that HER FATHER WAS MURDERED IN FRONT OF HER. Unless she fainted like most Disney-esque maidens, she probably saw his lifeless body too. Again, despicable.

11. Odette and Derek have now lost virtually all personality from their childhood selves. You really do get the sense that, while Odette may be fixated on Derek because he is pretty much her only hope for freedom (and she kind of liked him…ish), Derek is in this to marry a hottie. The hottie he grew up with, sure, but that’s what really matters.

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Feel the passion…

 

Think about it. Derek hunts for a hobby at least, and Odette has some backbone to her, but otherwise, they are incredibly bland. They get even blander when they think and talk about each other.

But hey, Derek still has more personality than most Disney princes. And Odette is…spunky. And nice. And a friend to the animals.

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12. Make up your mind, medieval-esque fantasy setting! Do the twits have a say in who they marry or don’t they? Why do the parents consider their feelings sometimes, and other times barely at all?

13. Derek hears the man who kidnapped his girlfriend coming around the bend, and said girlfriend is being evasive and shoving him off in a hurry. He leaves then, instead of:

•Staying and fighting, regardless of her warning. And don’t say “that’s stupid,” because he’s clearly a lust-sick idiot who loses all ability to strategize and plan when his lady friend is present and/or in immediate danger. At least in this way, he and Odette are perfect for one another, because she was willing to risk getting shot just to see him up close.

•At the very least, waiting until he’s out of her sight and hiding, or doubling back, to spy. You might think that he’d want to get a glimpse of the man, whether out of curiosity, anger, or just to size up the competition. There’s also the more than reasonable assumption that this guy is abusing Odette, either physically or mentally, so he could stick around to witness it. I’m not saying that is something he would particularly want to see, but the way he just traipses off into the woods and goes home humming, dancing, and party planning seems a tad callous, don’t you think?

I refuse to believe that a man is this stupid, just because an attractive woman is in front of him.
I refuse to believe that a man is this stupid, just because an attractive woman is in front of him.

 

14. Derek doesn’t put two-and-two together about the full moon.

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15. Derek’s assumptions about Odette’s appearance at the party:

•How did she get there? Derek certainly didn’t offer to get her there, but then, did he expect her to walk? Fly? Or that her kidnapper would arrange a coach ride for her?

•Where’d she get the new dress? I know the dress itself is meant to be symbolic, but again, in the context of the story, did her kidnapper give it to her? When your girlfriend is taken away by a literal monster, I wouldn’t think he’d bring a wardrobe full of clothes with him.

Derrrrrr....good question!
Derrrrrr….good question!

 

16. Again, I do love how Uberta, who was planning Derek and Odette’s betrothal since they were young, has forgotten what Odette looks like. And Lord Rogers, who is her close confidant, has virtually forgotten too. They both eventually figure it out, but it’s clear at first that they don’t recognize her at all.

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17. Does the crowd know who she is? They all stop, gasp, and stare when she enters, and I highly doubt it’s to shame Odette (Bridget) for being late. If they recognize her as the kidnapped-and-presumed-dead Princess Odette from the kingdom of wherever, why don’t Uberta and Rogers?

18. So Derek…you grew up with this chick for your entire life and your own instincts tell you that something is different about her tonight…Let me get this straight: YOU KNOW SO LITTLE ABOUT THE WOMAN YOU CLAIM TO LOVE THAT YOU DON’T EVEN REALIZE IT’S NOT HER?!

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Oh…right. DOES PHYSICAL ATTRACTIVENESS JUST KILL A MAN’S BRAIN CELLS INSTANTANEIOUSLY?!

19. If Rothbart isn’t a nice guy anymore, why is he making this a fight, let alone a fair one? Why doesn’t he just kill Derek?

Captain Obvious: Pssst…because it’s a movie and they need to drag it out.

Me: …Fine, I’ll give you that one. But I don’t care if it’s a nitpick. He sang a song called No More Mr. Nice Guy.

Side note again: Wolf-Bat-Bart has a cool, creepy design
Side note again: Wolf-Bat-Bart has a cool, creepy design

 

20. Not to bring the sequels into this because that’s totally irrelevant, but it’s inherently established in this movie that Odette can talk to animals because she can turn into a swan. So at the end, why can she still talk to them? Has the magic permanently altered her?

And, with regards to the sequel, why can every other human suddenly understand them too?

And why can Bridget talk?

And why do Odette and Derek take over the castle at Swan Lake? Because it’s halfway to both kingdoms? …Because we can clearly see that Odette’s kingdom is across the sea from Derek’s.

…I’m overthinking my overthinking. That’s when you know that true insanity has begun.

I’m probably asking for too much logic or realism in my nitpicking, but hey, I expect more out of two morons claiming true love will set them free. They should be more convincing, make believable mistakes…

And there I go again!

But this is definitely a guilty pleasure of mine left over from childhood, and just because parts of it are goofy or bad or lazy doesn’t mean you can’t find fun in watching it.

 

5/10

*All pictures, video clips, and other media above belong to Richard Rich, Nest Family Entertainment, New Line Cinema, and others. None of the images belong to me.

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