The Swan Princess: The Secret of the Castle (1997)

The Swan Princess: The Secret of the Castle is wild. This movie is a serious trip, like if you were high and thought, Swan Lake, but animated soap opera. I mean, these are the characters – Uberta, actual queen but really drama queen, Clavius, jealous sorcerer; Knuckles, oversized underling; Jean-Bob, delusional frog prince; Bridget, recovering henchwoman. And then there’s the dialogue, which here’s a sample – “You’ll always be a third rate villain inside,” “I warned you not to yak so much, but no, yak yak yak,” and “What are you, Miss Suzy Homemaker?” It could be the fact that I’m taking a truckload of flu meds right now, but this movie is bonkers.

It’s the second in a series of mostly direct to video releases. The original 1994 feature film, The Swan Princess, was a mildly faithful retelling of Swan Lake, and though it was no match for its Disney competitors, the movie had some standout song and dance numbers. Secret of the Castle sets out with an entirely new plot and pretty much discards Odette. After all she’s been through, what turning into a swan and all, she’s cast aside in favor of…her husband?

That’s right, Derek is the main protagonist. After defeating evil sorcerer Rothbart, he’s asserting his power, taking over castles, and totally forgetting about his first wedding anniversary. Ugh, men. But he apologizes by telling his wife, “I’m gonna do better, Odette. From now on, you come first. Everything else will just have to wait.” Girl. Odette still gets her moment of heroism and saves everyone’s ass, but she is more of a sidekick than the story’s raison d’être. Instead, Derek is tasked with the important duties. He has to prepare for an upcoming visit from the king of Lincolnshire, throw a big bash for his mother, Uberta’s, birthday, and make sure Rothbart’s disgruntled sorcery partner doesn’t destroy the kingdom. No biggie.

With such a noble to-do list, Derek doesn’t have much time for fun, which is why there’s a parade of nutty characters to fill the void. His mother is top nut, a sexagenarian monarch who wails about her birthday like she’s a six year old who wants all the cake. It’s no wonder that Clavius, disguised as a clown, kidnaps her, locks her in a dungeon, and turns her into a yak (see above). As for him, now that Rothbart is dead, Clavius wants to prove that he’s the better sorcerer by stealing the Forbidden Arts, which in this case is a magical orb and not a class at Hogwarts. The guy is petty AF though, even if he can rock a mean hot pink semi-air guitar. He has poor management skills and is easily baited by his nemesis, Uberta.

I will at least concede that Secret of the Castle is entertaining, even if it is objectively bad. Unlike other entries in this series, this one is keeps things moving. If there’s not a fire, there’s a rock slide, or a sand pit, or a lava pit to deal with. The talking animals are also amusing though not memorable.

Alt Title: The Swan Princess: Escape from Castle Mountain
Released: 1997
Prod: Jared F. Brown, Richard Rich
Dir: Richard Rich
Writer: Brian Nissen
Cast: Michelle Nicastro, Douglas Sills, Jake Williamson, Christy Landers, Donald Sage-MacKay, Doug Stone, Steve Vinovich
Time: 71 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2018