A long time ago I stumbled across this animated movie, "Sealed With a Kiss", which is supposed to be a kids' version of Romeo and Juliet, only with seals. Well I tripped over it this week and, true to my word, got it for my kids. We started watching it last night.
It starts out well enough, and even better than I might have imagined. There's a voiceover that paraphrases the "Two households" opening, and basically comes down to "Look, the white seals [Capulet] don't like the brown seals [Montague], that's just the way it is." There is a lengthy battle scene at the beginning where no one gets hurt, and the prince comes in to break it up, just like the story. I was quite pleased to see that two of the main characters will be Benvolio and Mercutio.
And then....the first cardinal sin struck. Mercutio is...mindless. His character does nothing but spout random lines from Shakespeare. Not even from R&J! His quotes include "To be or not to be", "Double double toil and trouble" and a couple of others. He solidifies his place on my sh*tlist in a scene where he and Benvolio are searching for Romeo and actually saying "Wherefore art thou Romeo?" while he's looking. DAMNIT! Paraphrase all you want but do NOT TEACH MY KIDS INCORRECT SHAKESPEARE. You wonder why kids get into school and think that Shakespeare is hard? Stuff like this doesn't help. I only have a couple of interpretations of how this could happen, and none are good:
* The person who wrote it is an idiot who didn't know any better. If that's the case then you're not allowed to do a Shakespeare movie.
* The person who wrote it thinks my children are idiots who won't know any better. They may not understand it, yet, but that's no reason to feed them an incorrect answer.
* The person who wrote it knew better but just didn't care. Doesn't say much for production values.
Anyway. The story continues true to form - they find lovesick Romeo, and convince him to go to the Capulets party in disguise, where he meets and falls in love with Juliet.
And then...the second sin strikes. I'm not sure if this is a bigger one or not, I have to put it in perspective. Remember The Prince? Well in this story, The Prince is the bad guy. He's sort of a prince, a Tybalt and a Paris all rolled up into one. Juliet's dad has decided that she will marry The Prince.
Normally I would say in language as strong as the above, DON'T MAKE STUFF UP! But I'm torn, because it does manage to prune down the cast of characters in a way that makes it more approachable to young kids. They get one bad guy to deal with. Granted it's still confusing -- in their world of princesses, the prince is always the good guy. They keep telling me that Romeo is the real prince. I tried to explain to them that in the original story there are two "princes", Prince Tybalt and Prince Paris, and they said "Three, Daddy - you forgot Prince Romeo."
As for the rest of the movie - the sound, the graphics - it is all mediocre, at best. It's the sort of thing you expect to find for $1.99 in a carboard display case in the supermarket. Looks like a personal project that somebody did on their PC (which, if I remember the story, it is).
We are only about half done with it, so I have to reserve the rest of my review until the end (which, I checked before ever getting it, is a happy one). It is for my kids, after all, so my final judgement will be entirely based on whether or not they like it. The "wherefore" line bothers me, not them. If they decide at the end that they liked it, if they ask me questions, and most importantly if it stays with them - if they're talking about the characters weeks from now over dinner - then I'll call it a success. That's all I want, at this age. I want them to know the stories. There's plenty of time later to fill in the details.