Trumpet of the Swan

 

Laura Clifford 

Robin Clifford 

Louie is a trumpeter swan with no voice.  In order to woo his lady love Serina, Louie makes friends with a young boy, Sammy, who persuades teacher Mrs. Hammerbottom (Carol Burnett) to allow Louie to attend class.  Louie learns to read and write and returns to his flock, but is laughed at once again when no other swans can understand his message of love for Serina.  To make matters worse, Louie's father feels he's lost his honor because of the trumpet he stole for his son in this animated version of E.B. White's "Trumpet of the Swan."

Laura:
As Jane Austen and Henry James have become popular sources for adult filmmakers over the past decade or so, E.B. White is being returned to for children's films.  The animated "Charlotte's Web" has become a minor classic since its release in 1973 and 1999 brought us a live action version of "Stuart Little." "Trumpet of the Swan," directed by Richard Rich (1999's animated "The King and I," the "Swan Princess" series), is unlikely to be remembered along with those two.

"Trumpet of the Swan" is receiving a regional theatrical release, but is sure to quickly appear on home video.  Boston is one of the targeted cities because our hero Louie becomes famous playing his trumpet in Beantown.  He encounters a gypsy-like con man in the public gardens who pitches Louie and his trumpet as an added attraction to Boston's swan boats.  Louie stays at the Ritz Carlton before giving a concert at the Hatch Shell along the banks of the Charles River.  At this point, Louie's earned enough money so that dad can pay for the trumpet and become musically capable enough to win over Serina's father.

"Trumpet of the Swan" features flat background art, some poor sound syncing and insipid, sugary songs.  This effort would be better suited to Saturday morning television than the big screen, but may be OK for the real small set.

C-

Robin:
A mute little swan named Louie just wants a voice of his own. His well-meaning dad steals a trumpet, and wreaks havoc in the music store, to help his son. But Louie seeks the help of a young boy, Sammy, to learn to read and write so he can communicate with his swan friends. Still, even after all of his hard work, no one understands him and Louie takes up the stolen trumpet to try and find his voice. He uses his musical gift to redeem his father and repay his debt in "The Trumpet of the Swan."

This is Saturday morning TV fare, at best, that should not subject the viewer with the expense and hassle of seeing it at the theater. Because of its Boston locales, especially the Public Garden, "The Trumpet of the Swan" is released theatrically in this regional. But, parents, be forewarned that you should wait for the video release which will happen very soon. This is the type of movie used as a baby-sitter for the age 3 to 6 age demographic it is so obviously aimed at. The simple story of the handicapped Louie using his God-given gifts to overcome his disabilities (and get the girl-swan, Serena, too) is full of good, easy to understand moral messages suitable for young kids.

The importance of learning to read and write, overcoming disability, finding your own voice, honor, family love, and more lessons of life are dealt out in simple ways that won't be lost on young kids. Lots of pastel colors and perky little songs are used to accompany the short attention span episodes of Louie's adventures. He also gets the help of a little beatnik squirrel who uses the "Internut" to communicate and teaches Louie to play his trumpet from the heart. There are a bunch of other cookie-cutter characters, but there's not much substance to any of them.

It's not that "The Trumpet of the Swan" is a bad movie, it's just not a good one. Kid's movies don't have to be bland. Just look at a film like "The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland" for intelligence and wit in kids' entertainment. The stellar vocal cast - including Carol Burnett, Jason Alexander and Mary Steenbergen - is far too potent for the material and can only be another reason to try and capitalize on a theatrical run.

The television feel, flat production and bland characters of "The Trumpet of the Swan" should relegate it to the small screen pretty quickly, so don't waste your heard-earned cash taking the kids to see it at a matinee. I give it a C-.

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