By Ian Freer | Posted 29 Jul 2019
It’s been some 18 years since Shrek created a goldmine deconstructing the kinds of fairy-tale tropes that powered Walt Disney animation for years. This once irreverent approach trundles into diminishing effect in Charming, a pop music, in-joke-filled reimagining of the Prince Charming mythology. Despite its big-name tween icon voice cast, it has languished on the shelf for two years, which gives some indication of its lacklustre qualities.
As formulaic as it is contrived.
The plot centres on smug, privileged Prince Charming (Valderrama), cursed with irresistible charm by the evil Nemeny Neverwish (Nia Vardalos) and forced to juggle the affections of Snow White (Avril Lavigne), Cinderella (Ashley Tisdale) and Sleeping Beauty (G.E.M.), here reimagined as the Plastics from Mean Girls. To hack the hex, Charming is forced to run a gauntlet to Fire Mountain to find true love’s kiss before he turns 21 or l’amour will be banished from the entire kingdom. Enter tomboy thief Lenore (Demi Lovato) who is immune to his charms and agrees to accompany the useless, impractical Charming as his guide, disguised as a man, in return for riches and freedom.
How this all unravels is as formulaic as the set-up is contrived. There are of course three tasks to mechanically get through: an impassable pass (attacked by sentient vines), an inconquerable beast (an uninspired rock monster) and a blind leap of faith (not a patch on Last Crusade). Save the catchy ‘Trophy Boy’, written by Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump, the throwaway pop is disposable and the animation lacks character and detail. There are some good ideas at play here — Sia’s one-eyed oracle who is right half the time, John Cleese’s loquacious hangman — but sadly not enough to cast a spell of any kind.