The Swan Princess: Escape From Castle Mountain

on July 08, 1997 by Dale Winogura
   Though it's somewhat more active and colorful than its dismal predecessor, "The Swan Princess," this sequel is pretty much just more stiff, unpolished animation for undiscriminating family audiences, lacking wonder and imagination. The few moments of charm and sweetness can be traced to Brian Nissen's occasionally clever script, but Richard Rich's pandering, immature direction is almost as blatantly amateurish in technique as his handling of the original (which was a success for distributor New Line, unaccountably).
   The story: A happy marriage between Princess Odette (a lovely vocalization by Michelle Nicastro of deserved "Les Miserables" fame) and Prince Derek (a nondescript hero voice by Douglas Sills) has fallen into disillusion and lassitude, until an evil sorcerer (a nonthreatening vocal interpretation by Jake Williamson) tries to get rid of the Prince and obtain a magic orb to rule the world. Of course, the Princess comes to her husband's aid with the help of loyal animal friends: Jean-Bob the frog (an annoying fake French accent by Donald Sage MacKay), Speed the turtle (a slow drawl from Doug Stone) and Puffin the puffin (cloying cutes from Steve Vinovich). An irritating ubplot of the Prince's wacky mother (wildly overdone by Christy Landers) kidnapped by the sorcerer on her birthday adds no humor or suspense to the already insipid proceedings.
   Bright colors and backgrounds are diminished by an absence of character detail and personality, with stilted motions and inexpressive faces in their place. Even worse, the three original songs by Lex de Azevedo and Clive Romney are only slightly more melodic and graceful than the tunes in the previous film; one number is a misfired and misplaced attempt at a rock-music style. As bland and unsophisticated as most children's TV shows, this is the kind of inept cartoon feature that sets the cause of good animation back a couple of decades. One key plus: It's short. Voices by Michelle Nicastro, Douglas Sills and Jake Williamson. Directed by Richard Rich. Written by Brian Nissen. Produced by Richard Rich and Jared F. Brown. A Legacy release. Animation. Rated G. Running time: 71 min
Tags: Michelle Nicastro, Douglas Sills, Jake Williamson, Brian Nissen, Richard Rich, Jared F. Brown, A Legacy release, Animation, wacky, insipid, absence, misplaced, rock-music

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