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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

The Trumpet of the Swan (review)

It’s a good thing beloved children’s author E.B. White is dead, because this horrible adaptation of his work would have killed him. Director Richard Rich and screenwriter Judy Rothman Rofe have extracted all charm, grace, and delicate fantasy from White’s story of a mute trumpeter swan searching for his voice, and replaced it with cheesy direct-to-video animation — complete with Bob Ross painted backgrounds of happy clouds and happy trees — and annoying, hammy voice performances from the likes of Jason Alexander (The Adventures of Rocky And Bullwinkle), Seth Green (Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me), and some actors who should know better, like Mary Steenburgen, Reese Witherspoon (Election), and Carol Burnett. Almost impossible for anyone older than 4 to sit through, this is an atrociously written film that features an utterly unconvincing relationship between an outcast human boy and the voiceless swan; a children’s summer camp situated near dangerous rapids and a waterfall, where canoes are left unsupervised for the kids to use; and swans who fly south for the winter… to Montana… which can’t be far from where they started, because a squirrel is able to follow them. The soundtrack is downright weird, with grating shifts in musical styles not only from bland, insipid song to bland, insipid song but often within individual tunes; and — how absurd is this? — the character played by Alexander has his own personal theme song that sounds suspiciously and distractingly like a snippet of Seinfeld music. Plus, the music often overpowers the dialogue… not that that’s entirely a bad thing, considering how juvenile the script is. This is one toon that should never have found its voice. Fowl… very fowl.


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MPAA: rated G

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

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