Hello, friends in time, and welcome to a regular feature on Cinema 52 where I put my weekly viewing of Back to the Future on hold and watch another movie featuring time travel for comparison.
In this special Threequel Weekquel Edition, I’ll be looking at the bizarre tendency of film franchises to feature time travel in the third installment, despite the original containing nothing of the sort. Is it a logical next step for each series, or just an attention-grabbing gimmick to draw audiences back in? Do the filmmakers even understand their own rules? And does introducing time travel help the franchise or hurt it?
Warning: As each film this week is part of a series, it’s going to get extra spoiler-y. You’ve been warned.
CINDERELLA III: A TWIST IN TIME (2007)
PREVIOUSLY ON CINDERELLA: Cinderella (Jennifer Hale in the third one, which is how I’ll credit all of these) is forced to do all of the housework for her wicked stepmother (Susanne Blakeslee) and her awkward stepsisters Anastasia (Tress MacNeille) and Drizella (Russi Taylor). Cinderella’s inexplicably existent fairy godmother (Russi Taylor) whips her up a hot outfit and sends her to a ball to meet Prince Charming (Christopher Daniel Barnes). She rushes out, she leaves her shoe behind, the Prince is willing to marry any old chick who fits it, it fits Cinderella, whee.
Oh, and yes, I watched Cinderella II: Dreams Come True in its entirety to prepare for today, and no, it doesn’t matter in the slightest and is not what we scientists call “a movie.” It’s a mishmash of scenes from Cindy and Charm’s wedded life in no particular order, as told by the mice. Yeah. Its one redeeming quality is to serve as a reminder of what a mind-numbing experience these atrocious Disney cash-grab sequels can really be.
WHAT DOES TIME TRAVEL BRING TO THE TABLE? Um, surprisingly, so much.
Grab that thing and get yourself a sports almanac.
It should be noted right away that the makers of Cinderella III clearly stole a few script pages from Back to the Future Part II. The villain gains control of the protagonist’s magical cheating-at-life device and uses it to go back in time to alter the events of the first film. And, to be honest, that premise works better here. When your franchise already revolves around time travel, revisiting a decade seems like a bit of a waste, but when the wicked stepmother gets her hands on the fairy godmother’s magic wand and realizes she can use it to change the past and make Anastasia marry the prince, break out some Rage Against the Machine, because she is about to fuck… shit… up.
Bibbidi bobbidi fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me.
Aside from being a great premise for a sequel, the time travel actually builds upon the original’s frankly weak story, filling up plot holes and showing us scenes we otherwise missed out on. For a plot hole example, we get an answer to the question that every kid thought made him a brilliant little Chuck Klosterman for pointing out: what would Prince Charming have done if the glass slipper fit somebody else? Well, he’d realize it’s obviously not Cinderella, you fucking dummy, which is why Stepmom has to use the wand to insert Anastasia into his memories of the ball.
Just click it over from “flux capacitor” to “neuralyzer.”
One of the best scenes involves Anastasia getting to know the king (Andre Stojka) after Prince Charming asks for her hand in marriage. It’s a glimpse at a private moment that we imagine happened between Cinderella and the king, but because Anastasia doesn’t belong here, it adds multiple layers to their interaction. The king has seen how Prince Charming and Anastasia seem awkward together, but he is nevertheless friendly and accepting of her because he believes this is what his son wants, and he fondly recalls accusations that he and the queen weren’t right for each other. His abundance of kindness and personal stories of falling in love intensify Anastasia’s desire to marry the prince, while also planting the idea that her deception will never pay off in the end because real love can’t be faked.
Was that paragraph too long? Sorry, I wasn’t expecting this movie to have good writing.
Really, guys, I’m as shocked as you are.
DO THE FILMMAKERS EVEN UNDERSTAND TIME TRAVEL? For starters, it’s magic, so you know what that means for anything resembling “rules.”
Shit like this?
Magical universes tend to chuck logic out the window faster than Lucifer the cat, but much like I was surprised by the sensible time travel in Harry Potter, I’m glad the writers of Cinderella III didn’t see the magic wand as an opportunity to do whatever the fuck they wanted to the space-time continuum.
Also, they homaged The Time Machine, winning all my respect.
Unlike Azkaban‘s immutable time travel, they’ve opted for an in-body alternate timeline. For people who actually leave the house once in a while, that means they’re Quantum Leap-ing their consciousnesses into their parallel bodies prior to the glass slipper making the rounds. And because it’s an alternate timeline that’s disconnected from the original, they don’t have to worry about paradoxes, like, say, how they obtained the wand while the fairy godmother was singing a song specifically about how Cinderella met Prince Charming, which wouldn’t have happened in the new timeline, oh my God, I care about this stuff too much.
Good call, F.G. I should be stoned right now.
Still, they did spackle a couple of cracks in the story with good ol’ magic. The fairy godmother, seen above, is accidentally turned to stone while grappling with Anastasia to get the wand back. When they arrive in the past, she is also stone, which really doesn’t make any damn sense. Maybe her stone soul traveled back with them, turning Past Alternate Her to stone also? It’s magic, whatever. Also, the wand somehow travels along with them, but I can allow this as a safety protocol that the fairy godmother installed, because if I don’t think of magic like a science machine, I cry.
DOES TIME TRAVEL DESTROY THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE? Absolutely, definitively, literally yes.
Well, kinda. Hold on.
Okay, so lots of time travel stories (especially random Anomaly Of The Week episodes of sci-fi shows) like to fix all their problems and put a nice little bow on everything at the end, but that doesn’t happen here. The events of the first movie are obliterated and stay that way. Now deal with it, kids.
This. Really. Happened.
Can’t handle it? Now you know how Trekkies feel. The Pine-scented Star Trek we have now pulled the exact same thing; if you like what you saw, cool, it’s totally real, but if not, hey, that old timeline will be there waiting for you. If you have no desire to seek out direct-to-DVD Disney sequels (which should be the norm), you’ll never even know this movie happened and can continue enjoying the original, and even if you see it, just tell yourself that at some point after Cinderella I, the wicked stepfamily disappears from reality and the fairy godmother is a lawn ornament forever.
Or, you know, you could just not care about movies.
I’m not the first to be amazed that this movie isn’t that bad, and honestly, it goes beyond the time travel. They managed to inject more heart, character, humor, and genre awareness into this sequel than some theatrically released kiddie cartoons, and while I wouldn’t recommend it to just anybody, if you’ve got kids, stay in the room for this one.
Cinderella II is pure ass, though.
LATER THIS WEEK:
Men in Black 3 (2012)
Want more time travel? Head on over to the Time Out archive.