*½/**** Image A Sound A Extras D
written by Jill E. Blotevogel, Tom Rogers, Jule Selbo
directed by John Kafka
by Walter Chaw Split into three parts, aptly like the anthology horror films The Monsters Club and Trilogy of Terror, Disney's own direct-to-video horrorshow Cinderella II: Dreams Come True reeks of corners cut and the kind of flaccid inspiration fuelled by the urge towards filthy lucre. The animation is an embarrassment to the Disney imprint, a half-step above the cut-and-paste style of Cartoon Network's "Space Ghost", and the writing is so lifeless, so feckless, it does nothing to forgive the paucity of attractive, liquid images. The backgrounds are static at all times, the characters move in stiff fits and starts (jittering and freezing just prior to edits), and the colours are lustreless. I would forgive a ballroom dance sequence, recycled no fewer than ten times over the course of the film (and serving as the DVD release's menu motif), not to mention the multiple rancid "remixes" of "Bibbidy, Bobbidy, Boo," if there were one moment in the enterprise that didn't make me want to lie down in a dark room with something cool to my brow.
Framed by the conceit that Cinderella's vermin-pals want to write a storybook about their favourite human, Cinderella II opens with a strange section aping Rebecca, continues with a strange section aping It's A Wonderful Life, and concludes with a misguided apologia of the original film's Disney-patented subtext of "beauty makes right." Each of the tales ends with a lavish ball, making Cinderella II a somewhat cynical rip-off of the original film three times over, and each section boasts of the kind of convenience that is only delightful for the very young. Not content with the Shrek-ian message of, "You can never be so ugly that there isn't an ugly person ugly enough to want you," Cinderella II also perpetuates the maybe-acceptable-in-1950 characterizations of Cinderella's mouse friends as fun-loving misogynists.
Adding insult to injury, Cinderella II boasts of rabidly insipid musical interludes set to tunes that remind mainly of theme songs for such bathetic family-themed television programs as "Full House" and "Growing Pains". It's not enough to say that children will probably like this film because children, if they're young or daft enough, tend to enjoy anything with bright colours and music; better to suggest that if your children will watch anything, best to provide for them edifying entertainments. Cinderella II: Dreams Come True (like Return of Jafar, The Lion King II, Return to Neverland, and so on) isn't interested in breaking new ground in animation, telling neither new parables nor old ones well and teaching your children anything but how to be quiet for seventy-three minutes. The only interest the film holds for adults with fond memories of the original would be in the tired lesson of how some artistry and innovation inevitably falls into commercialization.
Disney DVD's 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is sharp and crystal clear; likewise its DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio presentations. Though little use is made of rear channels, the songs get full treatment across the front speakers and dialogue is reproduced with consistent clarity. Bonus features include a four-and-a-half minute "Musical Magic" featurette showing footage of Brooke Allison's recording of the sonic garbage decorating the film, a music video of aforementioned garbage ("Put It Together") that incorporates clips from the film, a read-along storybook feature, an interactive "Cinderella's Magic Castle" game that has zero-replayability, a difficult-to-access DVD-ROM function, and trailers for Beauty and the Beast, The Hunchback of Notre Dame II, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Schoolhouse Rock 30th Anniversary Edition, 101 Dalmatians II, Tarzan and Jane, American Legends, 100 Years of Magic, Monsters, Inc., and the general "Disney DVD" spot. Originally published: March 17, 2002.