The great thing about fairytales is that they’re ripe for revisiting with a post-modern mindset. When everybody knows the story, the characters and the tropes, it’s easy to remix them with a knowing wink.
That isn’t the only reason why Shrek was a gigantic hit – while it does contain fairytale elements, it’s very much its own beast – but it does explain the plethora of animated films, from Hoodwinked! to Tangled to Puss in Boots and (shudder) Happily N’Ever After – to say nothing of live-action re-imaginings like Maleficent, Enchanted and Snow White and the Huntsman – that take a familiar fairytale and subvert it.
With its mix of Little Red Riding Hood and noirish detective thriller, Hoodwinked! is one of the better examples of this subgenre, and it arguably features the funniest song (“Be Prepared”) of any animated film in history. But we’re here to talk about the latest subversive spin on a classic fairytale, Ross Venokur’s Charming. And I’m pleased to report that it’s exactly that – and pretty funny to boot.
After decades of Disney princesses, Prince Charming finally gets to tell his story, as the dashing heir to the throne Philippe Charming (nicely voiced by Latino actor Wilmer Valderrama), cursed with an irresistible charm that bewitches the heart of every maiden in the Kingdom, sets out to find his one true love. The problem is, he’s already engaged – to not one but three princesses: Snow White (Avril Lavigne), Cinderella (Ashley Tisdale) and Sleeping Beauty (G.E.M.), and polygamy is still outlawed in these parts. Desperate to break the curse, Charming sets off in the company of a roguish adventurer, ‘Lenny’, hilariously oblivious to the fact that she is actually Lenore (Demi Lovato), the only woman in the land immune to his curse.
As you’d expect from a film from John H. Williams, producer of Shrek and its sequels, there’s comedy mixed in with the action and adventure – the best gag being when Charming shouts “See ya!” to a character played by – yup – Sia. (The singer/songwriter voices a mystical ‘seer’ with one eye, so her predictions are only right half the time.) And with the likes of Sia, Lavigne, Tisdale, and G.E.M. among the voice cast, it’s no surprise that the songs are plentiful – and, in one or two cases, a notch above the norm. The story zips along at a good pace – so much so that it pretty much ends at the 1 hour 14 minute mark, giving a cheekily long and indulgent end credit sequence that betrays the limited budget by recycling the production art.
Is Charming a Good Movie for Kids?
Charming is a lot of fun, especially recommended for young girls still in the princess phase – or just growing out of it – and it doesn’t beat young viewers over the head about its messages about being true to yourself, trusting your heart, choosing love over valuables and titles, and so on. It’s not going to trouble behemoths like Disney, Pixar or Illumination Studios any time soon, but sometimes, a little charm goes a long way.