Before I write anything else, I should mention a caveat right up-front. While I’m familiar with Richard Rich’s name from The Fox and the Hound and his animated scriptural stories, I’ve never sampled his magnum opus – the Swan Princess franchise – until now. For that reason, I won’t be comparing this latest installment in the series, The Swan Princess: Princess Tomorrow, Pirate Today!, to the other films. Sorry, sports fans!
However, I will say that I’ve been wanting to dip into the world of the The Swan Princess for quite some time, and this film provided the perfect opportunity to do so. Princess Tomorrow, Pirate Today takes equal parts Treasure Island, Gremlins, and even touches of Disney Animation’s Aladdin and blends them into a fun, creative, entertaining romp of a movie!
After Princess Odette (Laura Bailey) and Prince Derek (Yuri Lowenthal) leave the castle for a summer-long humanitarian trip, their daughter Alise (Jayden Isabel) finds herself facing a long, hot summer without her parents. Fortunately, Alise has two caretakers around to watch over her: Queen Uberta (Jennifer Miller) and Lord Rogers (Joseph Medrano). Unfortunately, Uberta and Lord Rogers have radically differing ideas about how Alise should spend her summer. Queen Uberta feels that Alise should spend the summer learning proper princess etiquette, while Lord Rogers, a former sailor (I assume), thinks Alise should spend the coming months learning about seamanship. When Uberta exercises her authority, Lord Rogers (with the help of Jean-Bob the frog and Speed the turtle) hatches an elaborate plan to shanghai Alise and take her sailing. The plan works, and Alise is thrilled; she’ll get a taste of the pirate life!
However, during a squall, our motley crew’s boat crashes against the rocks of a desert isle. On this island live a tribe of lizard creatures who are looking for a nice morsel of meat. Lord Rogers seems to fit the bill, so they carry him and Jean-Bob the frog off. Alise, however, is rescued by Lucas (Grant Durazzo), a runaway who has been eluding the lizards for some time. While Alise and Speed try to convince Lucas to return home, Lord Rogers stalls for his life by engaging the lizards in a reality cooking-show competition. Havoc ensues!
When Brian Nissen and Richard Rich sat down to concoct Princess Tomorrow, Pirate Today!’s story, they really went all-out in the creativity department. One gets the sense that Nissen and Rich went into the story process with a kitchen-sink mentality, throwing everything against the wall and seeing what stuck. This system works impressively well, creating a story with appealing elements for both girls and boys! For the girls, there’s Alise, a strong-willed, independent princess who’s more than willing to set out on exciting adventures. For boys, there’s the Han Solo-like hero and the pirate motif.
Of course, however, any gender can enjoy a good adventure story, and Princess Tomorrow, Pirate Today is a fine one! Over the course of the film, we see a shipwreck, headhunters (sort of), resourceful, intelligent heroes and heroines, a squirrel army, and a castle escape. All these elements to combine to create an old-fashioned swashbuckler! There are elements of the story that feel out of place (the reality-TV jokes, for instance), but they’re few and far between.
Unfortunately, the animation isn’t quite as strong as the story. The movie doesn’t sink to the level of video-game CG animation, but it’s closer to that than Disney-level. However, I’m willing to give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt and attribute that to a low budget. The songs tended to jar me out of the story, and they seemed sloppily written. There aren’t too many songs, however, so that’s not a huge problem. (I’ll admit that the lizards’ chant is catchy, though!)
However, for all its faults, Princess Tomorrow, Pirate Today! is still worth watching. An entertaining story can make up for lots of shortcomings, and that’s the case here. The fast-paced storytelling makes it easy to overlook the technical faults!
Princess Tomorrow, Pirate Today! is getting a perfectly decent DVD treatment from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The bonus features feature a sing-along mode for Alise’s song “A Pirate Today.” The disk also boasts two short featurettes featuring interviews with voice actors Jayden Isabel (Alise) and Grant Durazzo (Lucas), as well as singer/songwriter Macy Kate, who recorded the song “I’ll Be Your Star” for the film. The bonus features aren’t what you’d call meaty, but they’re fun, and they provide a little extra insight into the making of the film. They’re worth watching!
To sum things up, The Swan Princess: Princess Tomorrow, Pirate Today! is an entertaining little movie, perfect for whiling away an hour and nineteen minutes. The DVD reaches stores on September 6th. It’s very much worth picking up!
A special thank you to Sony Pictures Home Entertainment for providing us with a review copy!