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Reqarding "Once on a Mattress" Maybe its because I am 64, yet still
have a romantic heart, but I found nothing out of line in having the
principal characters played by people in their 40s. Contextually, this
was appropriate. And I thoroughly enjoyed Tracy Ulman as "Fred".
Tracy Ulman's performance in "I am shy" reminded me of the bold delivery of Ethel Merman.
Tom Smothers was perfect for the part of Sextemus, and Carol Burnett is her usual terrific self.
The young couple not only were well fit for their roles, but they also sang beautifully together.
I was pleased to learn that this is being made available on DVD. I see it as a keeper.
I'm only writing because of my disagreement with one of the other reviewers. Carol Burnett shines in this rather uninspired remake of the Broadway musical. Having once seen her play Princess Winifred, it is a pleasure to see her take the older role of Queen Aggravaine. She always has a way of taking an ordinary line reading and making it funny with her unique delivery. She should garner a supporting actress nod from someone, (Emmies, Golden Globes, anyone?) Tommy Smothers was great as the mute king, and Matthew Morrison and Zoey Deschanel were serviceable in their roles. Mixed reviews, however, for the two leads. A younger Tracey Ullman would have been great in this role, but she does seem a little old for it now. All in all, she gave it her best shot; and she does have her moments. But I would have preferred to see Sarah Jessica Parker's take on it, and I would have much preferred if Disney had left the stage musical intact instead of omitting roles and songs. Now that this has aired, would someone please release the 1964 TV version that gave Carol Burnett to the world? I haven't seen it since childhood, and I would love for my own children to experience this musical as it should be experienced...not this bland Disney remix.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For me, any review of "Once Upon a Mattress" is a matter of how it
stacks up to previous versions. "Mattress" was the second musical I
ever saw performed on stage when I was a kid. In my twenties, I played
Sextimus. I saw the 1972 version on TV (and recently acquired a copy;
it doesn't age well) and found the 1964 TV version on eBay -- that is
the best version, with an unexpected song and dance routine from
Elliott Gould, who is light on his feet and sounds like an American
This new version, to use my wife's assessment, is too Disneyfied. It's just OK when it could have been fabulous. It's polite when it should be raucous. Too many gags are blown because they toned down the delivery for film. Also, the secondary parts have been reduced to almost nothing. The Jester's role is so slivered that I wonder why he's in the film.
Tracey Ullman: Very good as Winnifred, but held back. Her British accent in the part is fine, since it establishes her as a foreigner in the kingdom. And she IS supposed to come from a marshland swamp in a northern kingdom.
Dennis O'Hare: Good acting as Dauntless, sloppy diction when singing.
Carol Burnett: Here's the main problem -- she's excellent (especially with the new song written for this version), but restrained. Aggravain is written to be bombastic and overpowering.
Tom Smothers: Very good as the King, but again, this is a part that has been played by Buster Keaton. It was written as basically being a medieval Harpo Marx. All of the girl-chasing has been excised. He's very mellow and charming, but mellow doesn't do it for me with this part. He was fine for "Man to Man Talk". Smothers was as wonderful as he was allowed to be by the director.
Matthew Morrison: Again, a cartoon part played too realistically. But Morrison was very good, and sang very well.
Zooey Deschanel: I liked her. Her voice was beautiful (her diction was sloppy.) She acted rings around Bernadette Peters in the 1972 version. But the problem with a more down-to-earth Lady Larken is that what attracts Dauntless to Winnifred is the fact that WINNIFRED is the very first down-to-earth girl he's ever met.
Michael Boatman: As the Jester - probably a good actor, but who knows from this? The part was cut to a point where he was a glorified extra.
Edward Hibbert: Disneyfied in a politically correct way -- instead of obviously being the Queen's lover-on-the-side, here the Wizard is an old drag queen -- LITERALLY, when he's playing the Nightingale.
The director blew the end of the curse. It's a standard comedy Rule of Three: Jester: Look... the Queen can't talk! King: (struggling) I... (court is breathless) King: (struggling harder) I... (court is breathless) King: (smiling) I can! (court cheers!) Here, the director had Tom Smothers IN THE BACKGROUND saying (very quietly), "I... I can talk. I can talk." Completely killed the bit.
The pantomime with Winnifred trying to get to sleep was rushed into, then screwed up with bad camera cuts.
"The Spanish Panic" is a choreographer's Mount Everest. This choreographer fell off the mountain halfway up.
Much of the material holds up (when the director has the faith to let the cast deliver it properly) and the songs are still charming.
The nice thing will be if kids like it enough to seek out other, better movies of musicals, or to audition for this one when their local theater does it, just because they remember liking this one.
I barely remember the 1972 television version of this, so it's probably
unfair to say that one was better. But my impression is it was better,
simply because Burnette played Winnifred. This is not to say Tracey
Ullman was bad. Ullman is tremendously talented and she does a good
job, but she was too restrained in the part. Burnette perfectly
captured the world's least appropriate princess, but Ullman actually
comes across as fairly sweet and gentle, at most mildly eccentric and
occasionally slightly loud. It doesn't help that Burnette cannot
completely contain her inherent wackiness; the play feels as though it
should be a contrast between a cold, imperious queen and a wild,
tomboyish princess, but the distance between Ullman and Burnette
doesn't seem that great.
Still, it's a fun musical with many amusing moments and a good cast. And who knows, maybe if I saw that 1972 version I'd say, this isn't nearly as good as I remember.
Very cute! I absolutely loved this movie- well, then again, I love Tracy Ullman and Carol Burnett (who is, by the way, not looking the least bit of her 72 years). I couldn't believe Burnett was still going this strong - and after starting her career with the stage version of this movie as young Princess Winifred, to now come back so many years later and play Queen Aggravain is just amazing. She's such a great performer, and this was no exception. I'm absolutely kicking myself for not recording the second airing of the movie, though, and I was wondering if this movie is available on DVD or what-have-you? Wishing I could find the music for Princess Winifred's opening song, also. Anybody know where to get either one?
Mattress is a great show... for those 16 or older. Like most Warner "Looney Tunes" it was never intended for children! Now, if you take that very premise, and try to make it palatable for the Christain set between our 2 mountain ranges, you kill the very premise for the show in the first place! The original plot revolves around, and is propelled by a pre-marital pregnancy, an Oedipal relationship, a woman-chasing father, and typical court intrigue. These are now, essentially all gone and with them went the engine that drives the show. That said, the actors here were all fine, and generally well cast (although I'd have gone with Marcel Marceau or the brilliant Bill Irwin for the King, even though Tommy Smothers was still great) and all the leads made the very wise choice of going with their own strengths as opposed to trying to out do the originals. Tracey Ullman was great as her own Winnifred, and Burnett created her own Queen, knowing that, like her own Winnifred of 1959, Jane White's original Queen is absolutely not copyable! The "dated" musical sound of the original was marvelously updated for today. All of which underscored the terrible rewriting of the book, and the stodgy direction accompanying it. Why take 5 minutes of droopy dialog to establish what "Opening For A Princess" did musically in 2? Where did that useless dungeon scene come from? "The Queen Has Ordered Quiet" and "Very Soft Shoes"" would have fit much better in the same amount of time. "Mattress" is a fully loaded freight train racing down a steep mountain grade, barely staying on the tracks, whistle and bells going all the way. Anything less (like the recent Broadway revival too) just falls flat. I wish they'd either re-release the 1964 B&W version, or someone please do a shot-by-shot remake, as it was written! No, Hollywood, you don't know better than the original Broadway writers and, no Disney, you don't know real comedy. You know "cute, innocent and humorous," but that's a long way from comedy! Please stop remaking Broadway musical comedies. Let someone else do it, please!
In the vein of the classic, 1997 version of "Rodgers and Hammerstein's
Cinderella", Disney released another delightful piece of eye candy,
"Once Upon a Mattress", the musical twist on "The Princess and the
Pea". "Once Upon a Mattress" is actually quite risqué for a Disney
film. Oh, it's hardly HBO-worthy stuff, but not many ABC family movies
lightheartedly deal with premarital sex, latent homosexuality, and the
most shocking Oedipal relationship since Angela Lansbury and Laurence
Harvey in "The Manchurian Candidate".
Hypersensitive/conservative parents better beware. For everyone else, it'd be a shame to miss the incomparable Carol Burnett (who originated the role of "Princess Fred" in the 1959 production of "OUaM") as the domineering Queen Aggravain, mother of meek Prince Dauntless (Denis O'Hare). When Prince Dauntless falls hard for robust, vivacious tomboy Princess Winnifred(Tracey Ullman), or "Fred" as she likes to be called, Queen Aggravain determines to sabotage the relationship by giving Fred a test she's convinced she'll fail. It's up to the mute King Sextimus (Tom Smothers), and dewy-eyed, pure hearted lovers Sir Harry (Matthew Morrison) and Lady Larken (Zooey Deschanael) to stop Queen Aggravain.
The costumes nearly steal the show, rich with explosive colors and sumptuous designs (Burnett's jewel-drenched costumes are designed by none other than Bob Mackie). Ullman gets wears yummy gowns of red and gold velvet, and Deschanael looks every bit the fair maiden in delicate, candy-colored silk dresses and rosy cheeks. The songs are also catchy and hummable, ranging from bombastic to ironic. I was surprised at what an incredible belter and game dancer Ullman was! In the show stopping number "Shy", she slides down poles and gets tossed about, Eleanor Powell-style, without missing a beat. Burnett shows that, even in her '70s, she's still a performer to be reckoned with, delivering the rather disturbing number "That Baby of Mine" with the hip-swiveling conviction of a burlesque dancer. All the couples have just the right amount of chemistry and a hell of a good time is had by all. Join the fun and don't be shy!
I have to agree with many other viewers... many things have been
"Disney"fied. However, I want to point out that O'Hare needs a little
more credit here. His character is somewhat weak, so his "sloppy
diction" (which, all rabid Broadway fans knows he is known for)
actually seems to endear him to the part.
Burnett shines especially, and Deschanel is charming. All in all, it's good fun to watch, but don't get your hopes up too high. This is obviously a kid-friendly, super colorful, bit of fun. No off-color humor here, so for those of us with a more wicked sense of humor, we'll have to wait a little longer!
Musicals are always fun to see. This made for TV musical, although was
mildly disappointing, was extremely addicting! Rising to the top of the
charts was Zooey Deschanel as Lady Larkin. Zooey although was not the
best singer, had a very unique voice that some may find bad but others
may find terrific. She played the art tremendously and her and Matthew
Morrison had great chemistry on screen. Tracey Ullman as Fred, the
Princess from the swamps was much to old to play the part and you don't
seem to care for the part as much as if a young innocent girl was
playing the part.
Carol Burnette was disappointing as the Queen, but still played the part well. Over all I thought the entire movie was just good. There was nothing special but I still enjoyed it a lot!
"Once Upon a Mattress" is a delightful musical. It is, however not big
enough to be made into a film, so a television version would be a
perfect solution. In fact, it was the perfect solution in two earlier
versions, both of which starred Carol Burnett, who created the role of
Princess Winnifred in the original Off-Broadway and Broadway
productions. however, both of those versions were abridged and differed
from the script slightly, so the third version would have been the
perfect opportunity to remain faithful to the stage script,
this is sadly one of the films shortcomings. A substantial amount of the score is dropped, not to mention some curious script alterations, such as lady larkin being sent to the dungeon, and the character of the minstrel is dropped.
On top of that, the cast is a mixed blessing. Carol Burnett is delightful, using her trademark comedy to the best of her abilities, beautifully hamming it up. taking on Burnett's role is Tracy Ullman ("Hairspray"'s Marissa Jaret Winokour was originally considered, but she turned it down). On the whole, Ullman is a good choice for the role, charming but still not an obvious bride for a prince. Ullman's comedy is adept and her singing is good, but on the whole one can't help but think she is a but mature for the role. The same goes for Dennis O'Hare as Prince Dauntless, his over the top performance somewhat schticky. Matthew Morrison is charming as sir harry, and Zooey Deschanel is appealing as Lady Larkin, even if she is a bit too contemporary for the role.
Still, after ABC's wonderful remakes of "Bye Bye Birdie" and "Annie", one can't help but feel that they could have done better.
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