December 5, 2008

The Sword in the Stone (1963)

In my review for The Jungle Book, I bemoaned the fact that most older Disney films (like Jungle Book) don’t have brisk enough pacing to keep today’s kids interested.

Then a colleague of mine commented on my review, saying that there was one older Disney flick that his kids’ “still tolerate:” 1963’s The Sword in the Stone. So decided to put it to the test with my 5-year-old.

Plot: Sword follows the adventures of a young not-yet-king Arthur, serving as a squire to the dim, brutish knight Kay. On a hunting trip with Kay, Arthur falls in on Merlin, a powerful but absent-minded wizard, and Archimedes, Merlin’s curmudgeonly owl sidekick. Merlin winds up teaching and training Arthur in the ways of the world, and has plans for him beyond mere squiredom.

While The Sword in the Stone is well-made, entertaining, has more action than Jungle Book, and is worthy of being called a Disney “classic” (unlike, say, Oliver & Company), it takes a while for the core elements of the story (Arthur and the titular sword) to make their appearances. It’s probably 30 minutes until we see Arthur on-screen, and then his training lasts until the 73-minute mark. It’s a 79-minute film.

No exaggeration: The actual interaction of Arthur with the sword in the stone is literally the last sequence of the film. I guess I expected more time in the movie for Arthur to actually deal with being king. Maybe gathering his Knights of the Round Table and slaying a dragon or two…?

Still, this is just my expectations being different than the actual product. Bottom line, The Sword in the Stone is fun for kids and grown-ups alike. (Standout scene: a wizards’ duel between Merlin and the wicked, goofy Madam Mim.)

One gripe…Arthur is voiced by three young actors, two of which are director Wolfgang Reitherman’s sons. This change is vocals is rather obvious between certain scenes.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5).

Will your kids like it?
My colleague’s recommendation paid off – my 5-year-old was more engaged with Sword in the Stone than he was with Jungle Book, making comments and asking questions several times during the film. And while I think it would appeal to both boys and girls, the film’s wizardry and swordplay probably provide more of a built-in appeal for boys.

Will your FilmMother like it?
I think she’d find it enjoyable, and a great reason to curl up on the couch with the offspring and some popcorn.

The Sword in the Stone
* Director: Wolfgang Reitherman
* Screenwriter: Bill Peet
* Stars: Sebastian Cabot, Karl Swenson, Rickie Sorensen, Richard Reitherman, Robert Reitherman, Junius Matthews, Martha Wentworth
* MPAA Rating: G

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1 comment:

Gemma said...

Cool review. Whoa--1963? Really?Glad Peanut liked it. And, ahem....



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