Director: Ross Venokur
Screenwriter: Ross Venokur
Runtime: 85 mins.
Australian release date: 1 November 2018
Previewed at: Roadshow Theatrette, Pyrmont, on 29 October 2018.
Uh oh! I guess the writing was on the wall for the animated musical Charming when its international release date was held back last year despite filming, recording and post-production being completed in December 2016. It’s taken until now for the movie to be released in Australia and it’s still waiting for a release date in the States. Not a good sign, even with a cast that includes pop princesses Demi Lovato, Avril Lavigne, Ashley Tisdale and G.E.M. and original songs by Australian artist Sia and Fall Out Boy lead vocalist Patrick Stump. It’s very obviously a Frozen wannabe but, even with a pinch of charm (sorry, couldn’t resist), it’s a long way from those giddy heights.
Prince Philippe Charming (voiced by US TV and film star Wilmer Valderrama) was cursed at birth with an excess of charm by his dad’s ex, the evil Nemeny Neverwish (Nia Vardalos), with the result that every woman in the kingdom falls in love with him at first sight. The curse can only be lifted by ‘love’s true kiss’ before he turns 21 but if he fails to find it, all the love in the world will disappear. Freaking out more and more as the day approaches, he has promised to marry Snow White (Avril Lavigne), Sleeping Beauty (Canto-pop star G.E.M.) and Cinderella (Ashley Tisdale), banking on the belief that he’ll genuinely fall for one of them before his birthday arrives. It goes without saying that the three fiancées are all unaware that they are engaged to the same man. When the truth is revealed, his exasperated father the King (Jim Cummings) sends him on a quest to Fire Mountain, explaining that this was how he found his true love. To assist him, he is assigned ‘Lenny’, a jewel thief who’s been arrested but has been promised his freedom and massive riches if he can keep the Prince safe. In reality, however, ‘Lenny’ is Lenore (Demi Lovato), the only woman in the realm who is immune to the Prince’s charm; in fact, she’s cursed with the inability to love anyone at all.
It’s surprising that the animators passed on the temptation to make Prince Charming a red-head because this movie could have been subtitled ‘When Harry Met Meghan’. Lenore is a dead-ringer for the newly-minted Duchess of Sussex, right down to her lustrous dark mane of hair, her café au lait complexion and the freckles on her cheeks. It’s doubtful that even its target audience of eight-year-old girls will miss the connection. (Incidentally, it’s been given a G rating in Australia for themes and violence that have been judged as having ‘very mild impact’, although there is a scene that involves the prince’s head in a noose that very little ones might find disturbing.) Writer/director Ross Venokur’s screenplay is fun and engaging and the songs are catchy but the animation, done in a new studio in Montreal in 2015, isn’t up to DreamWorks or Disney standard - it even appears to be out of sync in places. It seems that the film’s Australian distributors don’t have much faith in Charming because November is a very odd time to release a movie aimed at children. One suspects the DVD will be out in time for Christmas and that issuing the film in cinemas now is purely a marketing exercise for Xmas stocking fillers.