"Cinderella II: Dreams Come True," But Not in This Sequel
It was an uphill battle convincing people that Cinderella III: A Twist in Time was a genuinely good movie, and much of the reason for their doubt can be traced back to Cinderella II: Dreams Come True. Recently re-released as a Special Edition DVD, Cinderella II is emblematic of everything that was wrong with Disney animation in the mid- to late-1990’s. Unwilling to take any kind of risk or make any kind of distinctive statement, it is bland, boring, and forgettable.
The movie is a series of three vignettes chronicling Cinderella’s life after the original’s “Happily Ever After” ending. In the first, Cinderella discovers that life as a princess comes with responsibilities, and shows her chafing under the castle’s oppressive traditions as she oversees a royal banquet. Considering her past life of indentured servitude, it’s kind of hard to understand how she can view these as much of a problem, and the sequence is mostly used to teach us to Follow Your Heart and Be Yourself and To Blazes with Traditions That You Don’t Like. About the best that can be said of this sequence is that it is mostly harmless.
The second story is about the discontent of Jaq the mouse, who believes he has no value to the new princess and wishes to become human. The Fairy Godmother grants his wish, leading to a series of pratfalls and unexpected consequences culminating in a runaway elephant at a carnival. This is probably the worst of the three segments, since nearly everybody has to act out of character just to force the contorted and contrived plot to work.
The last vignette has Cinderella playing matchmaker for her stepsister Anastasia, who has fallen in love with the town baker against the wishes of Lady Tremaine, the stepmother who in this movie has been demoted from “wicked” to “slightly peevish.” It means precious little to say that this is the best of the three stories, but it does manage to muster up a little bit of dramatic tension and deliver a satisfying, if completely predictable, denouement. Had the first two story segments been cut and this one expanded to fill 40-60 minutes, we might have gotten a passable direct-to-video sequel.
The animation and voice acting for Cinderella II is decent, setting a minimum standard of quality a lot of direct-to-video animated movies still can’t quite achieve. It’s definitely a cut above the average Disney TV series, although it falls short of the quality of the first and third Cinderella movies.
It’s puzzling that Buena Vista Home Video even chose to repackage and re-sell this DVD at all, since there are no significant differences between this “special edition” and the original release, and it’s not like there was any kind of overwhelming demand for it. The movie gets an anamorphic widescreen transfer along with a DTS 5.1 English soundtrack and Dolby Digital soundtracks in English, French, and Spanish. Other bonus material include a new set of trailers, and the music video, storybook, and DVD games that seem to come with every Disney animated DVD. The one featurette of moderate interest to viewers over the age of six will be the “Musical Magic” featurette, wherein Mike Tavera explains to younger audiences how to write scores for movies and describes the leitmotifs he exploited in Cinderella II. Unfortunately, the featurette loses any value it might have had once pop-star Brooke Allison appears to explain her excruciating, white-girl hip-hop cover version of “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo.”
Cinderella II is exactly what results when entertainment executives stop talking about characters and stories and start talking about franchises. This is animation fast-food, where “quality” means that the customer is never surprised or challenged. While this “play it safe” attitude will ensure nobody will be upset or offended by it, it also means nobody will remember or care much about it either. The DVD is going back into the “Disney Vault” on January 31, 2008: there would be little point in letting it out again.