VERIFICATION: Charming (2018)

Movie reviews

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Usually I watch and critique the movies I’m waiting for, either because they look good or because of the people who made them. I rarely watch things I haven’t heard because, like most people, I’m busy and I have so much to see. But if I wear anything, it’s usually from Netflix because they don’t promote their products well. So when new series or new movies are released, I usually don’t hear about them. Today I decided to look at one of those random outings, Charming. I was intrigued by the premise, but it was the cast, made up of pop stars, veteran actors, television actors and Disney Channel performers, that attracted me. A strange but impressive mix, so I wondered why they weren’t promoting this particular film. Seeing him now, I think I understand why. Well, let’s see.

Charming is a parody of fairy tales, especially their popular adaptations by Disney. Originally published in 2018 (though Netflix says 2021 for some reason), it tells the unpublished story of Prince Charming Philip (Wilmer Valderrama). The curse makes all the women who see him fall in love with him. A series of heroic rescues leaves him engaged to three women at once: Snow White (Avril Lavigne), Cinderella (Ashley Tisdale) and Sleeping Beauty (G.E.M.). When his father sends him on an epic journey to find out who his true love is, he accidentally hires a wanted thief as his guide. Her companion, Lenny, is actually Lenore (Demi Lovato), the only woman immune to Charming’s charms because of her own curse. They must work together to survive the three trials and bring the prince to the castle to make a decision before time runs out.

While I’m not the biggest fan of fairy tale parodies (or modern parodies in general), I really like the premise of this film. I rolled my eyes a little at all the jokes about these princesses being engaged to the same man; I don’t mind the intriguing aspect, but they’re not very clever at pointing it out. The forest has already noted that Prince Charming is a love in several fairy tales, and I doubt this is the only fairy tale. It’s just tiresome, and I wish the movie had been taken more seriously as a problem for Philip and the princesses. They freak out when they find out what happened (another scene that should be funny and isn’t), but they never get mad because he lied to them. I realize it’s a kids movie, but why show this guy to three women and treat him like a joke? Actually, I don’t really like jokes with the three princesses. They are clearly designed to resemble the Disney iterations of the characters. Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty (who have no real name in this version) have modern interpretations of what they wore in Disney movies, right down to the jewelry. Snow White’s skirt is the same color, but her top is pink instead of blue. However, her hair, jewelry and makeup are clearly designed to elicit a Disney version, just like the others in the trio. I understand that Disney versions are ubiquitous and the most famous versions of these fairy tales. But I would have liked to see the film make an attempt to build its own believable fairy tale world. Shrek (especially the second one) and Hudwinkid! Both managed to do this in a unique and creative way. I find some of the female characters in modern, casual costumes distracting. The charming Lenore and most of the background characters wear vaguely medieval costumes throughout the film. Showing this and then having princesses in fancy mall dresses is very distracting. I’d like to see the film pick a style and stick to it, preferably medieval/fantastic clothing. I don’t like modern versions of fairy tales, and I don’t understand their appeal. There’s no need to stick to a strict historical chronology, and most Disney films don’t strictly do that either. But the film needs some kind of cohesion that makes it memorable and gives it a visual identity.

They also make other random and unnecessary references to Disney movies that are not funny or amusing. At the beginning of the film, we see a brown-haired woman in a blue and white dress sticking her face into a book. Who could that be? Besides, what’s the point of including him in this movie? Belle makes the same appearance in Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. It wasn’t uncomfortable because A) both films are set in France and B) Disney includes many visual references to their films in other films. Studios (especially those same directors) making internal jokes about their own work is one thing. But a new film from another studio that often features Disney characters for no reason is unsettling, at least to me. They do the same with Ariel and Jasmine, who fall in love with Prince Charming. It makes absolutely no sense with Jasmine, because she doesn’t fall in love with Prince Charming in any version of his story, but this movie still doesn’t care about what makes sense. It’s confusing, but it’s hard to get involved in a film that not only fails to capture its own world and characters, but also seems to resist the urge to do so. You get the impression that filmmakers talk: Have you seen Disney’s Snow White? Beauty and the Beast? Aladdin… because that in itself is funny or satirical. It’s not fun to just pay attention to great movies (which I prefer to watch over time), it’s distracting. I try to get caught up in the plot and characters of Charming, but the film is too busy reminding the viewer of other films without serving as a story or entertainment. I prefer Charming to give Cinderella, Snow White and company their own personality and character. Make your film stand out as something special, something memorable. We all know Disney movies exist and we all remember them. I hate to say it because I don’t like the movie, but Shrek was so much better. He parodied Disney and fairy tale musicals in general in a meaningful way and really said something about the medium. Simple words All these characters (whose versions we didn’t bother to make our own) are in love with the same type, lolz not really satirical or even parodic. You’re just drawing attention to something most people have already noticed. Some fairy tale princes are just called Charming instead of their own names. Here’s how.

As for the original Charming characters, I really like them. It probably sounds like I hated that movie, but I didn’t. Although I love Disney’s fairy tale musicals (there are many), I want to see something else that sets this movie apart. They actually do a pretty good job with the main character, giving him not only a name, but a believable personality. In this movie, Philip is a bit arrogant and selfish, but he really tries to do good. He grew up in luxury, his servants and subjects doing what he had wanted all his life. So, even if these traits aren’t perfect, it makes sense that they are, and this allows the characters to be developed later in the film. The only Disney reference I really liked is Philip’s christening; it’s the opening of Sleeping Beauty, but Philip is the opening of the nativity scene. He is blessed by a fairy when Nemeni Neverwish, his father’s guide who fell in love with him, curses him with an irresistible charm. Nemeny and King have a similar dynamic to Maleficent and King Stephen from 2014 Maleficent. She is in love with him, he decides to marry another, she curses her child. The main difference is that in Maleficent they make Stefan believe he deserves it, even if his young daughter doesn’t. In Charming, the king never cheated or betrayed Nemenya; she takes revenge simply because she is a friend. If that sounds like weakness to a bad guy, wait until we know his true character.

The King is played by established actor Jim Cummings. You may know him as the voice actor for Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Pete from the Mickey Mouse cartoons, Hondo Onaki from the Star Wars cartoon series and many others. Basically, if you’ve played video games or seen an animated movie made between the 80s and today, you’ve probably heard Jim somewhere. I really like the King, especially his relationship with Philip. It reminds me of Keith and the King in Cinderella from 2015. In this film, they don’t just focus on Cinderella (as most versions do), they give the prince a name, a believable personality, and a life with problems outside of romance. There are many here. Like Cinderella, there is even a scene with Philippe and his father that made me cry a little. Why can’t we have more and less annoying and inappropriate Disney junkies? The scenes Philip shares with his father and later with Lenore seem very different. For the most part, these characters have personalities and goals that are understandable given their situation. The king truly loves only his son and wants to break the curse. Philip wants to find true love, but he doesn’t know what it means to him. Lenore has no time for true love or fairy tales. Their idea of eternal happiness is to get as much money as possible. Sometimes she looks too much like the female Flynn Ryder/Eugene Fitzherbert from Tangled. But if they don’t explicitly refer to the movie (their research posters mention Flynn dead), it usually works. If Charming had focused more on creating his own characters and story, I think it could have been something special. There is a lot of potential here, and what works is highly effective. Too bad they decided that this movie had to be a motherfucker full of references to other movies.

Unfortunately, Nemeni is another aspect of Charming that doesn’t work for me. In the beginning, we were told that she was the one who cursed Philip, all because someone didn’t love him. Girl, that’s a little dramatic and pathetic. Have a little respect for yourself. But seriously, if the execution took place, it shouldn’t be a disaster. Nemeni’s story and motivations are weaker, but not weaker than those of Evil Queen (1959, not 2014) or Evil Queen. Many classic villains have goals that seem trivial or not worthwhile, but we get involved because they are intriguing or downright terrifying. Nemeney’s kind of here. She is played by Nia Vardalos in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but she doesn’t have many lines in the film. I don’t want to keep comparing this movie to Disney movies, but that doesn’t make me forget them long enough to enjoy my own story. Nemeney shares the film with Gaston from La Belle et la Bête; she doesn’t appear or isn’t mentioned during the film’s long run, so it’s easy to forget about her. Beauty and the Beast, however, does this intentionally to lull the audience into a false sense of security. Gaston doesn’t even seem dangerous at first glance. He’s a big, dumb, tough guy who wants to marry Belle, but he doesn’t threaten her with physical or other violence. She’s about to fall in love with the Beast before Gaston really isn’t scared or boring anymore. They won’t do anything with Nemenny. She is shown only sporadically, observing the main characters and suggesting that Lenore is too cold-blooded to fall in love with Philippe. This plan is so stupid! She could have killed Lenore or actively tried to prevent the curse from being broken, like Sister or Ursula. But no, she is waiting for the kiss of true love. His powers are also a bit vague and look ridiculous. If she was a threat until the last scene of the film, her mysterious powers could have been used to create a sense of fear and the unknown. But no, she’s only here to make the film an antagonist to the climax. Here’s how. The only thing she does that affects the main plot is to ruin a scheduled date with Lenore (who, according to Charming, is a guy named Lenny) by making women fall for Phillip. This scene is stupid, and I hate it when it’s such a misfire in a movie. Lenore arrives at the meeting in a girl’s dress to tell Philip the truth, but sees him talking to a group of girls and leaves. It’s such a lazy way to create conflict. One of the characters misunderstands what he saw/heard. The other person doesn’t understand what the problem is, and that takes time. This sucks.

The excitement in Charming is not so bad. It’s not Disney or DreamWorks quality, but you know what? That’s good. I love seeing how small studios do their best. It’s an international production (Canada-U.S.-U.K.), which is always interesting. I like the drawings of the characters, except for some of the costumes I mentioned. Charming has its own unique animation style that is unlike any other, and the faces of the characters are very expressive. The sets and backgrounds are of good quality, and there are some very nice shots in this film. Charming images come to life especially when the main characters leave the realm. The tone of voice goes from decent to pretty good. I don’t know Wilmer Valderrama that well, I’ve never seen the show from the 70s, but he brings Philip humor, charm (tee hee) and even a surprising pathos. This character and his relationship with Lenore and her father is the best part of the film, and I wish we had more of that. Demi Lovato does a good job as Lenore, although I’m not sure her voice fits the character well. You can’t blame her for that, she could have been placed in a different role or the model could have been revised. But that’s no reason to give up. Like I said before, I really liked Jim Cummings in that movie. The man is a professional actor with a voice, and this is always evident in his work. John Cleese plays two characters that I don’t want to waste time on here. I will say he is funny and one of his roles is ironic if you have seen Shrek 2. As for the three princesses, they’re fine. I prefer Ashley Tisdale as Cinderella, but I’m willing to admit it could be a personal bias. None of these characters have anything funny or interesting to do. If G.E.M. and Avril Lavigne are as boring and forgettable as Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, it’s not necessarily their fault. Think Hayden Christensen’s dialogue in Attack of the Clones, but make it boring instead of memorably funny. Nia Vardalos has a similar drawback. I don’t even remember her dialogue in the movie, and I’m not sure you can expect the standard bad guy in the cookie jar to talk about her. Sia plays the role of the half-blind member of this tribe of female giants that our heroes meet. It’s not bad, and it’s one of the best scenes in the film. I wish they had done more because I thought this character was funnier than her. I love the idea that as a half-breed, she’s right half the time and you don’t know when. That’s funny. She sings a song I don’t really like, even though it’s probably the best song in the movie. I don’t like Sia’s music at all, and I don’t particularly like modern pop music either, so your experience may vary. I wish they had gone for a more classic or Broadway sound with the music, but that’s something they did differently than Disney. Maybe I am a hypocrite.

Judgment: Moderate

Overall, I enjoyed the spell about half the time and rolled my eyes the other half. I really loved Matalia’s giants, especially the half-packs. Philip, Lenore and the king are worthy characters. They really do something unique with Philip, which is more than can be said for most movies. The closest I can imagine is Anna’s bow from the first Frozen movie. In fact, it’s much more natural and believable here. What Charming does well, works pretty well. If he had made Nemena a bigger threat (or left her out), if he had toned down the Disney references, and if he had focused on Phillip and the most important people in his life, this movie could have been great. I don’t regret watching Charming, and I would say if you have Netflix and need to burn 90 minutes. It’s very disappointing because the roles of a good movie are here, there are just too many things that have been added.

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