2 August 2017 | TheLittleSongbird
Not a beautiful swan, not an ugly duckling either
Of the 'Swan Princess' films, the best one is by far the first one which is still a flawed but enjoyable film now. The following sequels 'Secret of the Castle' and 'Mystery of the Enchanted Kingdom' were not great and had a fair bit wrong with them but had components too that made them watchable.
'The Swan Princess Christmas' was hugely disappointing and a terrible film in general, it looked bad when advertised and the film was even worse. 'A Royal Family Tale' is a marginal improvement over that film but was a big royal mess still, and while 'Princess Tomorrow, Pirate Today!' was also a marginal improvement that was also not saying much. Despite low expectations, watched 'Royally Undercover' last night, and, while a long way from a great film, it is by far the best of the CGI-animated 'Swan Princess' films and perhaps the best sequel since 'Mystery of the Enchanted Kingdom'.
Like 'Princess Tomorrow, Pirate Today!' the best thing about 'Royally Undercover' is the character of Alise. She is not the sickly sweet character of 'Royal Family Tale' but instead a charming, feisty and very likable and relatable character with a strong personality that puts most of the regular 'Swan Princess' characters to shame. Her chemistry with Lucas is charming enough.
Really liked that Jean-Bob, Speed and Puffin had more to do than the previous three CGI-animated films and having a few amusing moments. The best of the supporting characters is Rodgers, he doesn't look creepy this time round and is fun and actually useful and important to the plot rather than just background, he is also the best used since 'Mystery of the Enchanted Kingdom'. Really liked the bit between the king and Odette, which saw some nice background, and the scene in the corridor between Alise and Odette. Some of the voice acting is decent, particularly Jayden Isabel (Alise), Elle Deets (Odette) and Kirk Thornton (Count Antonio). Rodgers and Speed also fare well.
Not all the voice acting works. Faring worst are Jennifer Miller who is rather shrill and Yuri Lowenthal who voices Derek with a lack of real enthusiasm. Clayton James' accent doesn't sound consistent either, there are too many times where he doesn't sound authentically French.
The animation and the story were also mixed to me. The animation does have a little more colour and polish this time around, looking less like a video game from 20 years ago than the previous three CGI-animated 'Swan Princess' films. It's still not particularly good however, fluidity and attention to detail is still not great while there are blocky character movements, complete lack of fluidity, at times creepy facial expressions, backgrounds that make plastic feel like they have more life and the incredibly flat colours.
Story-wise, 'Royally Undercover' is easy to follow and is more eventful than the previous three CGI-animated 'Swan Princess' films, the spy stuff was fun and cool and a nice attempt at doing something different (if occasionally muddling the story), Alise and Lucas' chemistry keeps things afloat nicely and it was great to have some of the regular 'Swan Princess' characters having more to do as well as the positive messaging being done more tastefully. However, some of it is repetitive and the Uberta-Antonio plot goes nowhere.
'Royally Undercover' feels a little more 'Swan Princess-y' than 'Princess Tomorrow, Pirate Today!', but does feel too much of the Alise show and like a few episodes of a television show strung together. Again, Odette and Derek while not completely side-lined are underused, one does miss the chemistry between Odette and Alise that was the only thing that worked in 'Royal Family Tale' and Odette is a little on the dull. Nothing compared to Derek who has always been as wet as a drip but seems to be getting wetter with each instalment. A bright spot in the first three films of the franchise, Uberta is now annoying.
Once again, the music makes no effort to be true to the style of the original film, something that the first two sequels did try to do, the incidental music doesn't always flow or fit, is sometimes paced ploddingly and has a real habit of drowning out the dialogue. Also could have done without the songs, not only were they forgettable and irritating but they were ill-placed and actually felt completely out of place within the setting and for 'The Swan Princess' franchise in general.
The script flows badly, is cloying rather than heartfelt and, while there are some amusing moments and at least it doesn't go over children's heads or seem inappropriate, some of the humour is witless and largely childish and unfunny. While his chemistry with Alise is great Lucas lacks an interesting personality of his own, while the villains are too archetypal, generally lack menace and are bland.
In conclusion, lacklustre but much better than the previous three CGI-animated 'Swan Princess' films. 4/10 Bethany Cox