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Case Number 17068

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The Swan Princess and the Secret of the Castle

Sony // 1997 // 71 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Judge Katie Herrell (Retired) // August 19th, 2009

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All Rise...

Judge Katie Herrell is glad she still has her Lion King soundtrack.

The Charge

It will take all her magic to rescue her friends.

Opening Statement

In The Swan Princess and the Secret of the Castle there are all the requisite ingredients included in most magic kingdom movies: the dashing prince and princess, the talking animal sidekicks, the bad guy who wants to destroy the pretty people, the annoying mother-in-law, and the magic orb and its accompanying transformative powers. But there's also quite a bit of snarky, cultural commentary for the parental guardians.

Facts of the Case

Princess Odette and Prince Derek run a kingdom under siege. Bad guy Clavius is intent on stealing a magic orb embedded in the couple's castle. As a distraction Clavius kidnaps Derek's demanding mother, the queen, and leads Derek into disaster forcing Odette to come to his rescue—in the most peculiar manner.

The Evidence

When the movie begins we see Princess Odette and her bumbling servant prepping the dining room for her first anniversary dinner with Prince Derek. Except Prince Derek has to dash off to save the kingdom—again. Derek is apparently an absent husband and his wife's sadness is palpable, even through her cartoon features. This is a fairy tale? More like an animated version of He's Just Not That Into You. But Odette is no wilting flower. And thus begins a kids' film filled with adult storylines and veiled cultural commentary encased in a tale of a magical kingdom.

Besides the marriage on the rocks, there's the frog that really thinks he's a prince, one song's constant refrain of "No Fear," the mother-in-law Queen Uberta who, when kidnapped, convinces her captor she needs cucumber sandwiches and peppermint tea, plus the constant references to the "Forbidden Arts."

All of this combines to make for a bit of an overwhelming kids' movie. Certainly most kids won't be able to follow the peaks and valleys in the dialogue, hence the talking frog, turtle, and puffin. The animation is fine, pretty even, but it's not Disney caliber. In fact there's something a little off about Princess Odette. I can't put my finger on it, but her facial proportions are a little flat for a beautiful cartoon princess. And when I set my DVD setting to full screen on my small laptop the resolution became a bit grainy.

Then there's the music. The background music is fine, inventive even. But when the characters break into song themselves, it's a show stopper—and not in a good way. If you're someone who bought the terrific The Lion King soundtrack, or sang along with the Pocahontas theme song when it came on the radio you will cringe at the songs in this movie. They are not just off key but they aren't catchy (see the "No Fear" refrain) and go on for far too long. And the special features on this "Special Edition" DVD? Two music videos seemingly plucked right from the movie.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

I wasn't pleased when I received this DVD to review. I really expected it to be syrupy, pink, sappy, and sugary, but it actually had a bit of an edge. From the beginning I was intrigued and couldn't help envisioning the writers of this flick sitting around cracking up at their own wittiness. Plus, it was only 71 minutes long. I haven't seen a movie under an hour and a half in forever—it was a nice change of pace.

Closing Statement

Kids and parents alike will enjoy this movie. And if not, it's over before you know it.

The Verdict

Not guilty, even if her magic is of the dark arts variety.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 80
Audio: 70
Extras: 70
Acting: 75
Story: 90
Judgment: 78

Perp Profile

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Chinese)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Thai)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Chinese)
• English
• Chinese
• French
• Korean
• Thai
Running Time: 71 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Rated G
• All Ages
• Animation
• Fantasy

Distinguishing Marks

• Music Videos


• IMDb

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