Okay so if Cinderella II expanded a story that didn’t really need to be developed further. Then the best follow up to that film is to erase all of it along with the original film completely!
So obviously I don’t have a lot of good feelings about this film, but it not the film proper so much as what it could have been. Not to say that there aren’t problems in this movie there are. For starters the opening song is awful! There are no other words for that abomination. It makes me want to shatter my eardrums. The other problem that comes up with the opening song is basically the premise of the film where Anastasia is shown wanting Cinderella’s life. Just like the second film I have to ask, why is Anastasia the one picked to be good? In fact since Anastasia got the baker in that last film Drusilla really should have been the one to get the semi happy ending this time. It would send a nice message about how people can change and be better than they were before, even if they’re the bad guys. Also it would work from a logical perspective too, because with the lyric of Anastasia wanting a prince to love her and the life Cinderella has I’m left to wonder, what the hell happened to the baker?! Did they break up? Did he go off to sea? Did Tremaine have him killed? I mean in later scenes Anastasia clearly feels bad about doing all this to Cinderella so the interaction they had in Dreams Come True should still have taken place. So again, what happened to the baker?
Well whatever the reason Anastasia gets the chance when the Fairy Godmother’s wand literally falls into her hands and Tremaine undoes the last year of everyone's life taking us back to the day the slipper fit Cinderella and having it fit Anastasia instead.
Now redoing the slipper scene is a reminder of how not as excellent the animation is here. There are a lot of nice background details and lighting in some areas, and I like the creepy colour set of the climax with the pumpkin. However for the character animation the subtlety is just not there. In fact the subtlety isn’t there in other character animation that they themselves made up either like Prudence. Just watching her speak all the movements of her eyes and lips are so broad and rubbery that it just doesn’t fit with the stoic character Prudence is supposed to be. To paraphrase Milt Khal the audience sees humans all the time and they know when they don’t look right. Without that careful use of movement with human animation I spend more time noticing all the flaws than paying attention to the film itself.
What I did get out the story though was that subtlety was missing from it too. Drusilla is making gags with the wand and its jarring with the darker tone of Cinderella trying to regain her lost life. The food fight is jarring as well in terms of tone. In the original film the creative team were able to make the step-sisters comedic in small ways like Anastasia’s smile and her getting her finger stuck in the flute during the music lesson. Along with the contrast of Drusilla’s singing and Cinderella’s singing from that same scene. We get to see that the sisters aren’t as refined as Cinderella in ways that don’t involve hurling food at each other.
In terms of the other characters the prince finally has a personality which is nice, but the whole true love hand look thing is kind of just making the romance look worse in my opinion. It really just confirms that he and Cinderella didn’t do anything, but dance that night and it still comes across as an empty romance. Touching a person’s hand is enough to know it’s true love? Really? Yes within the time constraints of the whole upcoming wedding you have to do something contrived like that, but hey they could have just moved the wedding instead. Now the other romance in the film with the king and his wife is interesting, but I don’t think it matches with the personality we saw of him from the first film. There the king basically wanted his son to marry anyone so he could have grandchildren. Now even in the original film where Cinderella drops her shoe at her wedding he goes to put it on and she kisses his head. Obviously there is at least affection there so I can see him coming to love her as a daughter and person and not just someone to give him grandchildren. However, I really felt that there should have been some scene that better connects the character in the first film with this guy. I mean in the original the king brushes off the idea of love just being a guy meeting a girl under the right conditions. Then here we have him having dozens of pictures of his wife in a room with a shell from his one true love. It all just doesn’t work for me.
Still the idea of updating Cinderella’s story to address some of the issues of the film from a modern perspective has the potential to work, but this one really needs that top level animation and budget to do that and it doesn’t have it. That great contrast of light and dark, the deep backgrounds, the subtle animation you simply can’t get on the budget they had. The ideas are all there to make something really good and something that could even stand beside the original, but the lower production quality ruins it. Tremaine should be this great evil mind untwisting Cinderella’s life and Cinderella and the prince’s struggle should be this great adventure and it isn’t quite there. Sure Cinderella nearly failing to achieve what she knows is true is good, but the prince being told the truth with a song by the mice, who are still annoying for the record, is just another annoying tone shift in what should be the dramatic climax of the movie.
Also that song, the opening song, and Cinderella’s dream song that looks like a rip off of Belle’s song from Beauty and the Beast don’t hold a candle to the first film. Cinderella is memorable for its songs. Not really watching this film as a kid even I knew the words to ‘Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo’ and ‘A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes’ is a Disney anthem right up there with ‘When You Wish Upon a Star.’ If you’re going to address some of the issues of the original film in this film than you need to be able to stand alongside the first film properly and this movie simply doesn’t. The production quality isn’t there to really develop the ideas to their fullest and the story is lacking too.
In the end I think I liked the second sequel better than this one. The songs aren’t good, the animation is rubbery in a lot of places, the story while admittedly having really good potential falls short in execution. The tone shifts for humour are often clumsy, the character development is hit and miss, and like the last film this is totally unnecessary really to the story of Cinderella.