Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Cinderella III: A Twist in Time: The Good, The Bad, and the Creepy

Since my most popular post has been my review of the Disney Fairies series, I thought I'd jump in and review the latest Disney Princess movie, which I recently purchased for one of the Ragkid's birthdays. The thumbnail review is: The "Story" is better than the original, but not as good as the Disney Fairies stories, the Songs are unmemorable, and I was kind of creeped out by one of the story's implications. Overall, a Qualified "Good, but not Great". And really, what more can you expect from a Direct-To-Video movie?

Also, a note. I never saw Cinderella II, so I may be missing something important from that movie -- but I doubt it.


It is Cinderella and the Prince's One Year Anniversary. Anastasia is spying on them, and realizes that the events of a year ago were caused by the Fairy Godmother's magic. Anastasia steals the magic wand, and gives it to the evil stepmother, who turns the Fairy Godmother to stone, moves time back a year, and "bippety boppety boo"s the shoe so that it fits Anastasia's foot before Cinderella escapes from her locked room. (The Tagline of the Movie is "What if the slipper didn't fit?", which isn't really accurate. It's not that the slipper didn't fit. It's that Cinderella never got to try the slipper on.)

The Prince knows immediately that Anastasia isn't his true love, so the evil stepmother bippety boppety boo's his memory so that he recalls dancing with Anastasia instead of Cinderella. The wedding is planned for that night.

In the meantime, Cinderella decides to take matters into her own hands. Impersonating the Royal Mousecatcher (along with Gus and Jacques), she sneaks into the castle to win her Prince back. Meanwhile, Anastasia is having second thoughts because she wants to marry for love, but the King is so nice to her, that her doubts are assuaged.

Eventually, Cinderella steals back the magic wand, but is captured and banished before she can undo the magic, and the mice convince the Prince that he is under a magic spell, and that he is "really" in love with Cinderella, even though he remembers falling in love with Anastasia. The Prince rescues Cinderella before she can ship out.

Her plan falling apart, the wicked stepmother makes a last ditch attempt to save her plan by casting another spell on Anastasia so that she looks like Cinderella, and sending Cinderella away in a locked pumpkin carriage driven by the now-human cat Lucifer. Cinderella escapes, Anastasia refuses to marry the again-fooled Prince, and the Prince saves both Cinderella and Anastasia, who the wicked stepmother tries to turn into toads.

The wedding can them go off as planned.


The Good: A solid story for a movie that's only about 70 minutes long. Lots of plot twists, and jokes for people of all ages. My three year old got scared when the Fairy Godmother was turned to stone, but when I reassured her that she's be fine by the end, she was okay for the rest of the movie. Cinderella is much more self-directed. Not able to take the "footwear path" to happiness, she takes matters into her own hands and fights against her wicked relatives to win her man. She defeats Lucifer and without any help, and has some other individual successes that were not driven by magical or male assistance or magical guidance. Also good is that the Prince is given a personality, so that he appears to be someone worth marrying, rather than just a handsome outfit who dances well. When they "re-marry" at the end, we are happier for them, because they both really worked for this time.

The Bad: While Cinderella is more self-directed, her direction is still solely to win the hand of a man she met for a couple of hours the night before. Also, while Cinderella is much more pro-active, and fights some of her own battles, she is also "rescued" twice by the Prince -- once when she is banished, and again when the wicked stepmother tries to turn her into a frog. Anastasia and Cinderella stand together, and have some individual successes, but they would have failed in the end had not the Prince stepped in repeatedly to help.

In one the "Disney Fairies" books we read recently, a wingless fairy is falling, and another tries to catch her. When she fails, a sparrow man tries to help, but the two are not strong enough together. When they fail, another fairy adds her muscle, and the three of them together save the falling fairy from disaster.

In the "Disney Princesses" stories, the women may be self-sufficient to a point, but the Prince is always the last line of defense. Sometimes the sisters do it for the themselves, and sometimes an extra man is needed. There is never a situation where are you are missing for success is an extra female. While I have no objections to the man sometimes coming in to save the day, there is no balance. Moving from "Woman always saved by Man" to "Woman sometimes saved my Man and sometimes saves Herself" is a step in the right direction, but it is not even and symmetrical.

The Creepy: So, this starts out as one of the sweeter parts of the movie. The Prince is having second thoughts about his betrothal to Anastasia because there is no "magic" when they touch, and Anastasia is a particularly bad dancer. She is crestfallen, but the King takes her aside and talks to her, saying how his Queen, before she died, was also a terrible dancer, and that love isn't based on superficial qualities like dance ability. In addition, the picture of the Queen, over the King's throne, looks surprisingly like Anastasia.

So, based on this and other similar scenes, both daughters took the implication that there was, in fact, a budding romance growing between Anastasia and the King! The thought of the erstwhile evil-stepsister becoming Cinderella's new formerly-evil step-mother-in-law just skeeves me out in a Faye-Dunaway-in-Chinatown kind of way. ("She's my sister and my daughter!")

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Blogger Amy Reads said...

Hi Ragtime,
Thanks for reviewing this! I'm a sucker for time travel stories, and occasionally a sucker for Disney (We Reads honeymooned there, after all!), but the straight-to-video sequels have been, well, bad, and I didn't want to waste my time.
Thanks for letting us know how the story went!

PS are the Ragkids fans of Iron Giant?

6:22 AM  
Blogger Ragtime said...

Hi Amy,

The Ragkids don't know from the Iron Giant. Is it recommended?


Left out from my review is the unaddressed issue (as the story all takes place in one day) of whether all the magic would have disappeared at midnight anyway. It seemed like a relevant plot point (could we just stall them for a few more hours?) but nobody mentions it.

8:44 AM  
Blogger kalinara said...

I remember reading the junior novelization for that. (I work in a toy store and was bored. :-P)

I liked that Cinderella was a bit more proactive, but I had a problem with the fact that in the end, the only real moral growth was undertaken by Anastasia.

The Prince had the action parts and Anastasia had the final climactic decision, and Cinderella ultimately was pretty darned useless. It annoys me that the ideal heroine of the story didn't get much of anything out of it.

I'm actually reminded of all the Disney Princess stuff. I saw a board game that said something about the way real princesses achieve their dreams is by wishing. Not by being proactive or through your own best efforts (with maybe a little help), but by wishing. Way to ignore some of the achievements actually MADE by some of these characters...egads.

7:28 PM  
Blogger Amy Reads said...

Hi Ragtime,
The Iron Giant is much recommended. Mr. Reads and I have bought many a copy for many a friend's child, and when money ran low, loaned it out. I defy the "it's a movie for boys" stigma that some try to attach to it. It's just, in a word, great. I don't know how old the Ragkids are, so perhaps watch it first to make sure it's not too scary? A few parts might be a bit frightening for the younger (3-5) kids as opposed to the bit older (7-9) ones.
That being said, it's loosely based on Ted Hughes' book The Iron Giant, and I hesitate to admit this, but it's one of the five cases in the world in which I like the movie more than the book. But then, I hate Ted Hughes because of the whole adoration of Sylvia thing, so there goes.

And interesting point regarding the time issue of Cinderella! Now I need to decide if I want to rent it, or wait until my 2- and 4-year-old buddies get it, and watch it with them and their mom....

6:46 AM  
Blogger Amy Reads said...

Hi Ragtime,
PS But then, I hate Ted Hughes because of the whole adoration of Sylvia thing, so there goes.

That would be, of course, my adoration for Sylvia. I have a tendency to get angry at literary husbands. Don't get me started on the Shelleys...

6:48 AM  
Blogger Ragtime said...

Hi Kalinara:

I liked that Cinderella was a bit more proactive, but I had a problem with the fact that in the end, the only real moral growth was undertaken by Anastasia.

The Prince had the action parts and Anastasia had the final climactic decision, and Cinderella ultimately was pretty darned useless.

Who else did you want to see grow morally? Cinderella is essentially your moral ideal, and the only growth I can see from her is a realization that marriage might not be all that important -- but that would undermine the whole story!

I also wouldn't call Cinderella useless. She certainly wasn't able to solve even problem alone, but she was an intrical part in solving many of them, some with and some without help.

That makes her less than fully actualized, but certainly not useless!

8:44 AM  
Blogger Ragtime said...

Hi Amy.

The oldest Raggirl is 6, so we will certainly check out Iron Giant next time it comes up for a vote.

8:44 AM  
Blogger kalinara said...

Hi Ragtime!

I guess my problem is that I tend to believe a main character should be either proactive action-wise or under go some sort of personal growth.

Cinderella did get to be a bit more proactive, but in the end, the day was saved not through really any of her actions, but because her step-sister ended up having a crisis of conscience. I liked that it gave Anastasia some depth, but I would have liked to see Cinderella take more of an active role beyond running to the prince and then getting to the church on time. In the end, I thought Anastasia was much more the main character than Cinderella.

6:09 PM  
Blogger Ragtime said...

I see what you are saying, but I guess that part didn't really bother me.

I didn't see it as Cinderella not saving herself through her own actions. Both Cinderella and Anastasia had their own personal guantlets to run, and the quest would not have been successful unless they both succeeded. In that sense, Anastasia's transformation was necessary, but it was only part of the answer.

As for pro-activeness, I was most impressed by the "Royal Mousecatcher" scenes, which showed Cinderella to be clever, and not just "nice".

7:49 PM  

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