Monday, November 24, 2014

The Sword in the Stone - 4 stars out of 10

The Sword in the Stone - 4 stars out of 10

“The Sword in the Stone” is an interesting chapter in the Disney Canon.  It has Disney’s entertaining characters and classic animation style, but the story did not transition well from the novel to the animated adaptation.  It is more like an episode of Tom and Jerry than a Disney Animated Classic.  Merlin’s transformation of Arthur into different animals to educate him seems perfect for Disney, but instead it compartmentalizes the story into different segments, each of which eventually includes a chase sequence between different animals.  This interrupts any flow of Arthur’s childhood journey.  The antagonists are barely even in the movie because the story is so often interrupted by extended educational lessons with Merlin.  These school-like sequences make the film seem overly kiddish, almost like Disney’s version of School House Rock.  The lack of consistency from beginning to end is also echoed in the characters who only appear for a brief amount of time or disappear from the story without much explanation.  A prime example is The Wolf, who chases Arthur in several early scenes and is never heard from again.  Another example is Madam Mim, who is one of the more interesting characters in the story but is only present for one sequence.  That being said, the Wizard’s Duel is probably the most creative part of the movie.  This is the moment where our Disney expectation is met as the animators take two character personalities and transform them into many different animals.  It is pretty random in the grand scheme of the story, but the writers set it up so that it fits perfectly.  This sequence, along with the main characters, are the reason to watch this film.  The comedic interpretation of Merlin is awesome.  His references to modern culture are too much at times (particularly the whole Bermuda thing), but his character gives us something to cling on to amidst the bland story.  I find Junius Matthews’ voicing of Archimedes to be the highlight of the film.  We have all known a curmudgeon in our life and that’s why we can relate to this owl’s negativity with so much whimsy.  One of the most bothersome parts of this film is that three different actors voiced Arthur.  You can literally hear his voice change from a kid to a teenager in puberty and back again, all in one scene!  I cannot understand why Disney thought that this would be okay because it is incredibly distracting.  However, my biggest issue with “The Sword in the Stone” is that the titular Sword in the Stone is introduced at the beginning of the film and then ignored until a quick resolution in the last five minutes.  They should have named this film “Sing-a-Long Lessons with Merlin” so that we wouldn’t expect the story to actually be about Arthur’s quest.  The film isn’t bad when viewed amidst the history of animated films (as evidenced by a positive critical response), but it does not live up to the Disney standard and it is not a surprise that most kids have never heard of “The Sword in the Stone.”

[Pictured: One of Disney's most iconic moments]

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