The Princess and The Pea (2002)
The Princess and The Pea (2002) is an animated musical fantasy film, based on the fairytale The Princess and The Pea by Hans Christian Andersen. The film was directed by Mark Swan and released by the American-Hungarian production Feature Films for Families and Swan Productions.
The movie is about the continuation of the first princess who slept on the pea, who formed a grand kingdom. In her lineage, came two brothers Heath and Laird. Laird is set to be the next king since he is the eldest son but it is given to Heath due to him being in the throne room first and Laird is made successor to the pig kingdom. In revenge, Laird steals Heath's child after his wife dies and replaces her with his own daughter to get back at him.
A raven named Sebastian tries to solve the mystery of the pea when Heath's "daughter" Hildegard grows up to be a brat as Heath's real daughter, Daria, lives as a pig girl and falls in love with Prince Rolo.
Why It Sucks
- Poor grasp of the source material: The film tries to expand the short story but it ends up being a confusing and complicated mess, with the weird kingdom rules and where the plot goes.
- There are so many problems with the characters, since all of them have extremely flat characterizations with depths of wet toilet paper, with Heath and Daria as the stereotypical nice ones while Laird, his wife Helsa, and Hildegard are the stereotypical nasties, as well as Daria's adoptive parents.
- Daria is pretty much a Cinderella rip-off with her growing up as a lowly peasant but it all nice and kind, having mean parental figures, having a royal background but was taken away from her family, her appearance, and even her voice somewhat. Daria even calls the people who keep her on the pig farm and give her chores "step-parents" when they're her foster parents. She has no personality that makes her shine from the other princess characters.
- Heath is the lame, generic "good" king. He barely has any drive or personality other than wanting to project his late wife's memory onto his daughter. Somehow, he is able to tolerate Laird's childish behavior when most wouldn’t take it, and Heath doesn't see his brother is like this, giving him power to rule over the peasant people (despite Laird literally singing in front of him that he wants to oppress everyone, even threatening to hang young Prince Rolo). The writers of the movie try to make the audience feel bad for Heath for losing his wife and dealing with Hildegard, but it doesn't work as Heath is just idiotic for not seeing how his "daughter" looks nothing like him or his wife. Plus, he is also responsible for Hildegard being a brat from possibly neglecting her for Helsa or the maids to raise and for not letting go of this idea of forcing his daughter to match up to her saintly dead mom. So yeah, Heath is a terrible dad.
- Rolo is a bland generic and shallow prince, even worse than Derek from The Swan Princess. He has a friendship with Heath that isn't really explained or how he even associated with the King when he was a child, he dumped every girl he's met either because they were poor, overly-pampered, or had a sense of humor. Rolo seems to only be interested in a woman is if she looks beautiful.
- Laird is an awful villain. He is set up to be a Jafar/Scar type, trying to weasel his way to the throne but he is a whiny manchild who obsessed over his golden shoes and has a generic plan to oppress everyone because money.
- Helsa is Laird's useless henchwoman and is used as a running gag for eating so much. It isn't funny and made worse from that fact she has a moment of potential character development that is wasted in the beginning.
- Hildegard has little depth either. She is portrayed as being spoiled and haughty with a bit of potential that is also wasted. Even when given the news that her aunt is actually her mother, she only freaks out because she was born in the Pig Kingdom.
- Sebastian is an annoying animal character who's only purpose is to keep the whole pea plot relevant. It takes him almost the whole movie for him to figure out the pea mystery and expose Hildegard with a heart birthmark. Not like there were OTHER indicators that she wasn't Heath's daughter, like her hair color and facial structure.
- The pigs are extremely annoying, especially Fearless.
- The whole baby switch is executed poorly. It's weird enough on how Laird and Heath are brothers when they look nothing alike but when Hildegard grows up under Heath's care, the guy never questions why his "daughter" looks like his brother and sister-in-law, down to the mole on her chin. This makes Heath and everyone else who can't see the issue look like absolute idiots.
- Also, there is a scene of Sebastian examining a naked baby Daria, which is uncomfortable to watch and very inappropriate for a kids' movie.
- The music is pretty bland and forgettable.
- The romance between Daria and Rolo is also bland. They only meet once and dance which prompts them to fall in love, but Rolo ditches her because she is poor. No further development or chemistry.
- In the song "Kingdom of The Heart", the glass figures on the walls just come to life out of nowhere. It's bizarre and kinda creepy.
- Daria says that Rolo called her "my lady" six times. But he only said that once. Either he did offscreen or Daria forgot how to count.
- The climax is both drawn out and almost over quickly, which is not only underwhelming and unsatisfying but downright laughable.
- Despite Hildegard being outwardly rude to everyone, to the point Heath plans to disinherit her and make Rolo his heir instead, he seems to forget all that when Laird (who was also a jerk to Heath) claims Rolo wants to marry Hildegard and believes she has become like her mother. Do I need to say Heath is a moron again?
- Atrocious pacing. Some parts make it hard to tell if it's the same day or the next day.
- There is this scene where Laird rallies the people against Daria because of a never-mentioned drought in the kingdom and burns the forest to keep her out of the picture and get Rolo to marry Hildegard. It's almost bizarre how quickly it starts and ends. Plus, it seems like a huge 180 and other easier options could've been used, like throwing Daria in a dungeon.
- The designs aren't that good. Heath, his wife Mariana, and Daria look generic and unmemorable and the other characters that aren't the pretty good guys look like Tim Burton rejects.
- Executive meddling: The reason for most of the Disney clichés were because the studios insisted on them. Not helping was the modest budget that hindered the ability to redo scenes that were coincidentally similar to other films that came out during production.
- The animation is better than the usual Disney mockbusters or Disney direct-to-video sequels. The colors look rather muddy but the movements are smooth.
- Helsa and Hildegard had potential to be interesting. In the baby switch, Helsa has a sweet moment with baby Daria and mentions she lost her own mother when she was young. She even tries to convince Laird to not do this since Daria didn't do anything to him but this is never brought up again. Hildegard is also a wasted character since she could've been interesting if her distaste with Heath was his insistent pressure to be like her "mom", even show more of her relationship with Helsa, who genuinely cares about her or hell, show her interacting with Laird and how they'd develop before the baby switch reveal.
- The voice work has talent, with the exception of the character extras though. Especially Daria's hideous foster mother.
- Daria does stand up for herself to her foster parents, even leave them as they whine between some rocks while she goes to find shelter in the Kingdom after the forest was burned down by Laird.
- The songs are okay and audibly sound good, except for Laird's song "That's What It Takes to Rule" and Sebastian's song.
Reviews of the film