I’m more confused than anything by today’s offering, one 2002 movie by Feature Film For Families and Swan Animation called The Princess and the Pea, and I do mean Princess AND the pea, or peas, or the legendary pea of legend. Yeah, this movie takes the story of the Princess and the pea and turns into well something else. To be honest this is a bad movie but at the same time I’m kind of enchanted by it in a very dumb way.
So what is the Plot? Well what isn’t the Plot is the a better question, seriously this thing has got so much of a plot that the movie doesn’t even have time for it. It starts off with a backstory about about this Princess that came around because she couldn’t sleep on a Pea, (you know the story) and how she brought a golden age of awesomeness BUT ZOMG her descendants were ass-hats who were selfish, that is till the most recent king BUT his eldest son, Laird is a major jerk, also who has most evil looking character design ever, like Scar and Jafar’s creepy-ass love child. Anyway there is also a prophesy about how the next king will suck and Laird is determined to be the worse King ever because poor people suck, and this opening scene stars with a raven scholar named Sebastien, are you still with me? There a child Prince from another country, Rollo (Insert Frollo Joke, although the kid that played young Rollo went on to play Quasimodo in the Lionel Bart version and there was a Stephen Webb who played Phoebus in the Asian Tour of Notre Dame de Paris….) anyway Rollo thinks Laird is meanie-face and uses a law that gets Laird’s younger brother Heath crowned, which pisses Laird right the fuck off. Making Laird justified in being pissed, the crown was his.
9 months later both Laird and and Heath’s wives give birth to daughters however Heath’s wife dies. Laird hatches a plan to swap his daughter for the princess which works but not before it is established that the real Princess has a birth mark on her foot, keep that in mind. Anyway Laird’s plan is that his daughter will grow up to be spoiled brat and will drive his brother crazy and the Princess is sent to a pig farmer family where she grows up to be sweet and kind and cinderella as the pig farmers are terrible and make her do all the work but it’s cool she has three little pigs, Hungry, Princess and Fearless who is a coward. And I will just say this right now, the pigs get more screen time than the main characters.
Then the plot proper kicks in, as grown-up Rollo is looking for a bride but he doesn’t take to kindly to bratty Princess Hildegarde (Laird’s daughter) so he peaces out but Hildegarde is not taking that as she wants to marry him. Rollo then meets up with Laird who decides this is a good match. Rollo also meets Daria (insert Daria theme music here). Daria is our hidden real Princess. Both are blandly attractive so naturally they fall in love. While that is going on that Raven, who can talk even though the other animals can’t, is trying to find out the mystery of the Pea. This plot gets a lot of attention.
Rollo then goes on a quest to find the right Princess but he can’t shake Daria as all the other Princesses sucks and Daria clearly the only nice person in the whole world. Word gets to Heath that Rollo wants to marry a Pig farmer girl and Heath tells Sebastien, the raven, that Heath should and if he does he will make Rollo the heir as he plans to disinherit Hildegarde, which Laird’s Falcon spy hears and stops Sebastien. Laird then gets Daria kicked out the Pig Counrty and sets fire to her special forest which she called the Kingdom of the Heart. Rollo thinks she dies and Sebastien learns something about the pea and sleep.
Rollo awakes to learn that he is going to marry Hildegarde and Heath is cool with this because Hildegarde has changed, not sure when that happened. Daria then wanders into the castle 10 minutes before the wedding and asks if she can lay down. She climbs up 20 feather mattresses and still can’t sleep. And Sebastien learns that it’s not the pea but having a sensitive heart. They then break up the wedding, we learn Daria the real princess because of the birthmark on her foot, minor fight ensues, Daria is reunited with her father and Rollo and Daria get married, the end except no kiss, boo.
The basic rule of movies is show don’t tell but this movie shows and tells the wrong things which just makes one confused. Like Hildegarde’s fake change is just told in passing twice. Daria and Rollo have one, ONE, scene together. Most of this movie is Raven obsessing about Peas and the pea is clearly a mcguffin as it turns out not to mean anything. There is so much going on here but the movie can’t focus on anything. Is it about Rollo and Daria and the not quite love, is it about Sebastien and the Pea or Laird getting revenge for his throne being taking? It should be about all those plots but the movie can’t blend them into a concise narrative which is why a good chunk of the movie is the set-up.
The characters are bland as bargain brand white paint. Either the characters are sicklying nice OR just mean and unpleasant. The greyest character is Laird’s wife, Helsa, who felt for baby Daria before she was swapped but that was one scene.
Speaking of nicety-nice-nice Daria she is hardly in the freaking movie. Really the Mcguffin Pea gets more scene time than the supposed lead i.e the Princess. I read that this was because Daria was harder and/or more expensive to animate and I can see that as the pretty characters have to have been retroscoped.
Speaking of her animation, she looks like a combination of Don Bluth’s Thumbelina and Aurora. The Thumbelina thing makes sense as Mark Swan of Swan Animation worked for Bluth. Plus with the unknown princess thing we have shaded so both Aurora and Anastasia so Daria is quite derivative, there is nothing special about her except she is nice which seems to be an anomaly in this world.
I will bring up being nice in a second but let’s talk about the animation. The animation is fluid but not very good. It reminded me a lot of Gulliver’s Travels where the pretty characters have to step aside for the goofy cartoon characters because of ease of animation even though it hurts the story. Also the animation looks a older than 2002.
Then we have the songs, they are pretty bad too. There are a LOT of them and they are sort memorable for being bland and clumsy . The first song sounded like it was recorded in a hall with an echo. The second was villain song about how Laird would be a terrible king and he delights in it. Then Daria’s I want song which is bland. There is also TWO romantic songs, one is really creepy as Daria and Rollo dance with stained glass windows but when the windows turn it the same on both sides. Also that scene was derivative of Once Upon a December, this movie is chalk full of derivative moments. The second is love song is Daria and Rollo pining for each other al la the Swan Princess’s Far Longer than Forever or The Thief and the Cobbler’s Am I feeling love. There is also a song for Rollo’s quest to find a Princess bride and you guessed it a song about Peas. I will say the songs are better than the Thief and the Cobbler but those made want to tear my ears off.
However despite all the Pea talk there is a moral and it’s a bad one wrapped in a good one. The moral of the film would have you think it is that nobility does not make one nobel but kindness, which is all very well and lovely however there is another moral working here that selfishness and being a jerk is a genetic disposition. Laird bets on his daughter growing up spoiled and his wife was there to make sure that would happen but the King could have raised her better. Laird takes a leap there as he just knows his child would be a horrible human. And of course the other Princesses Rollo meets are jerks. One could draw the conclusion that rich =jerk and poor people =nice al la James Cameron’s Titanic, except for Rollo, the King, the dead Queen, and the bird are nice and noble and Daria’s foster parent who are lazy farmers are jerks. However the movie seems to think that selfish is born not created.
For all its numerous flaws and confusion story structure, I can’t find it to hate The Princess and the Pea. It’s a bad movie but it’s kinda bad in a stupid awkward way. I would rather watch this than most these non-Disney Princess movies but that not really praise at all.Follow thehunchblog