Charming review – charmless, cutscene animation toad in the hole
Charming is a toad.
Charming is a toad.
Netflix has become a charity by subsidizing bad films for studios. They are responsible for the distribution rights in the United States of the animated film Charming, a joint Canadian-American effort that was first released in Spain all the way back in 2018. In what I can only imagine was a joint dark op named Mountie Patriot, part of some irreverent terrorist attack against the world, the film landed in the cinemas of 77 consecutive countries before reaching the streaming giant today. Charming is a lifeless and lazy attempt at a family animated comedy.
A young prince, Phillippe Charming (Wilmer Valderrama, voted most charming back in 2004) has a serious case of early polygyny, as he proposes to every skirt in sight, including Sleeping Beauty (G.E.M), Cinderella (Ashley Tisdale), Snow White (Avril Lavigne), and others (I think they missed an opportunity to have them be voiced by Lindsey Lohan, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Mandy Moore). None of them seem to notice he has hundreds of fiancées except his father, King Charming (voice actor Jim Cummings), who pleads with him to pick someone until they all catch on and wreak havoc on the kingdom. King Charming then gives his son an order — he must find true love or else lose the rights to his throne.
A monkey wrench though is thrown into their plans when Lenore (Demi Lovato), a head-strong and feisty bandit, is given a work release program by being hired to escort the Prince through the gauntlet and on top of Fire Mountain by pretending to be a man, where I assume Chris Harrison will be waiting for the aforementioned princesses. Thing is, we don’t really know why he has to go through a dangerous journey; in fact, it is never really explained — he only says it’s something to do on a weeknight. Of course, we all know how this will end.
Charming was written and directed by Ross Venokur (Game Over, The Tick), and the only thing more childlike than the way Valderrama plays Prince Charming as an innocent prince is the witless dialogue and the Saturday morning cartoon animation. Theatrical films need to reach a certain level of quality when it comes to animation, and the scenes in here are practically cutscenes from a videogame (a sequence in a videogame that interrupts the gameplay). The film only begins to have a bit of fun, and the animation get interesting, when they are captured by a forest full of giants called the Matilija. The songs, usually a staple of animated films, may get the kids moving and can be catchy. But the first song is repeated consecutively so many times I thought Netflix had a buffering issue.
However, that is all beside the point. The real issue is how utterly charmless Charming is. The idea of this story, while clichéd, is rich in clever possibilities. The result, however, is a slack-***, cookie-cutter approach that yields a tepid, slothful family film. There is little chemistry between Lovato and Valderrama, and their back-and-forth banter is oddly off, almost a full second before the reply should come; it is anything but quick-witted.
Charming lost its way almost immediately into its adventure. The idea of Valderrama being the prince is clever in itself, considering his well-known dating history (and reportedly previously dating Lovato), but the premise would have been so much more interesting if Prince Phillippe thought he was charming, but actually wasn’t. Otherwise, the joke is not on the characters, but on the audience watching the film. If a girl has to kiss a lot of frogs to find her prince, Charming is a toad.