Two Musicals from Disney
The Music Man (October 11/05)
Based on Meredith Willson's classic musical, The Music Man casts Matthew Broderick as Harold Hill - a slick film-flam man who arrives in a small Iowa town intending to bilk its citizens out of a sizable amount of cash. Harold's well-worn plan goes awry, however, when he finds himself falling for the local librarian (played by Kristin Chenoweth) - despite that fact that she's in the process of unearthing evidence that could put an end to his shenanigans for good. The Music Man is generally pleasant enough, filled to the brim with lively, spirited musical numbers and a host of appropriately over-the-top performances (Broderick, in particular, is charismatic and engaging). But at a running time of over two hours, the non-stop barrage of musical numbers eventually becomes oppressive and difficult to take (although, to be fair, fans of the source material will probably find more to embrace here than neophytes). As a result, although the movie is elevated by an exceedingly peppy sense of style, The Music Man never quite becomes as accessible as one would imagine it's meant to be.
Once Upon a Mattress
Given that Once Upon a Mattress has clearly been inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's The Princess and the Pea - a short story that's barely a page long - it comes as no surprise that the film is ultimately overlong and forgettable, despite the best efforts of an exceedingly game cast. Carol Burnett stars as Queen Aggravain, a heartless and mean overlord who has successfully prevented her only son from marrying by subjecting would-be brides to a series of increasingly difficult tests. But when the charismatic Princess Winnifred (Tracey Ullman) appears, Aggravain concocts a preposterous task involving a stack of 20 mattresses and a tiny pea. Director Kathleen Marshall's imbues Once Upon a Mattress with all the style of a stage play (the sets look like they'd be far more at home in a theatrical setting), a choice that essentially negates the effectiveness of the cast (which includes Zooey Deschanel, Garden State's Denis O'Hare, and Spin City's Michael Boatman). The distinct vibe of silliness doesn't help matters (one of Aggravain's henchmen dresses up like an exotic bird to help lull Winnifred to sleep), yet there's no denying that all of these elements add up to something that should amuse small children.