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The Trumpet of the Swan

In this animated musical version of E.B. White's children's classic, a young trumpeter swan journeys to find out what a true voice is. Unfortunately, the journey is pretty uninspired.


Based on the book by E.B. White, who also wrote such children's classics as Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little, The Trumpet of the Swan tells the story of Louis (voiced by Dee Baker), a young trumpeter swan born without a voice. His bigger-than-life father (voiced by Jason Alexander) is none too happy but, along with Louis' mother (voiced by Mary Steenburgen), they try and help the little tyke adjust to his swan world. He meets a lovely female swan, Serena (voiced by Reese Witherspoon), and the two start a serious flirtation. But life is hard for voiceless Louis so, sacrificing the honor he holds so dear, Louis' father steals a trumpet to give his son a voice, causing much mayhem in the local music shop. Louis knows how this theft has damaged his father, and with the help of a young boy, Sam (voiced by Sam Gifaldi), Louis tries to make money to repay the music shop. He eventually becomes a rich and famous jazz musician and ends up living happily ever after with his love, Serena.


The voice talent certainly isn't lacking star power in Alexander, Steenburgen and Witherspoon, yet somehow that makes little difference to the quality of the film. Alexander, a voice-over pro, is unrecognizable and over-the-top, utilizing little of his musical or comedic talents. Also severely wasted is Carol Burnett, who provides the voice for Mrs. Hammerbotham, a teacher in Sam's school who teaches Louis how to read and write. In Trumpet, the first film in which Burnett lends her voice to a character, she comes off as screechy and annoying-not a good way to start out. Joe Mantegna, yet another big-name talent, voices the character of Monty, a street hustler who tries to take advantage of Louis' talents. Joe Mantegna? His part is a definite blink-and-you-missed-it kind of role. All in all, it seems a shame that actors of this quality couldn't breathe more life into the film.


The story itself is an endearing children's classic. Like Stuart Little, the book reads in vignettes that don't necessarily flow from one to the next. But unlike the Columbia Pictures' appealing live action adaptation of Stuart Little, where the filmmakers concentrated on certain aspects of the book, Tri-Star's animated Trumpet tries to bring the book to life as is, and it comes off jumbled and, quite frankly, boring. The film does attempt to teach some valuable lessons to youngsters about sticking to your principles and being the best you can be, but it has no other hook. The original songs are uninspired, and even the jazz compositions don't start any toes tapping. Veteran animators Richard Rich and Terry Noss, who brought us such other films as The Swan Princess and The Black Cauldron (not exactly classics) do nothing to distinguish the film from countless others. In the competitive world of animation, where 3-D and huge concepts are the norm, Trumpet falls seriously short.

Bottom line

It might be wise to wait for Trumpet of the Swan to be aired as a Saturday morning special on Fox Television, unless your three-year-old forces to see it on the big screen.