I don’t really have a very good reason for watching lacklustre 90s animated features, but I got hold of a glut of them on a whim a few months ago. Today’s box office flop of choice was The Magic Sword: Quest for Camelot, which Warner Brothers released in the shadow of Disney’s more successful but still rather poor Mulan.
Managing to be both very much of-the-moment and also very formulaic, it takes familiar tropes of Arthurian legend but puts a feisty female protagonist at its centre. The plot centres on the need to return Excalibur to King Arthur in order to protect Camelot from the aggression of a traitorous knight. On paper, this may well have worked. The plot is simple but many of the best ones are, and the way the baddy is foist on his own pitar was satisfying; however, without characters to really care for and with way too many annoying comic relief characters, it falls flat.
The cast is stellar, featuring several big Hollywood names as well as a Python and a few lines from a bona-fide Shakespearean stage legend, not to mention singing voices provided by some very impressive names; however, those with serious roles sound bored with their insipid characters (Pierce Brosnan’s King Arthur is not only wet and ineffective but sounds like he’s falling asleep) while those with comedy roles get lame, shoehorned-in pop culture references that seem like they were included because some board deemed them fashionable rather than because, y’know, they were actually funny. There are far too many comedy roles here, all of them charmless and irritating. Gary Oldman’s campy eccentricities somehow work when he’s onscreen himself, but his disembodied voice was fey and pantomimic, making for a hopelessly ineffective bad guy. The music is sung well but composed lazily, the with the lyrics far too tied to the narrative, when if Disney have shown anything with their modern style, it’s that more general themes for songs work better.
Unsatisfying, cheap-looking and suffering from extremely bland characters, it’s one to miss. Oh well.
(originally written 13.1.09)