The Magic Riddle
The Magic Riddle is a 1991 Australian animated feature film directed and written by Yoram Gross. The film tells the story of Cindy, an orphan who lives as an indentured servant to her cruel stepmother, and features elements of famous fairy tales including Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, The Ugly Duckling, The Three Little Pigs, and Pinocchio.
Cinderella and other fairy tales get jumbled together when a grandmother tells a story.
Why It Sucks
- There are a number of animation errors and examples of lazy editing that are easy to spot in the movie:
- There are hideous white lines on the characters, which is seen as distracting.
- Some scenes are recycled in the movie. For example, the shot of one of the dwarfs poking his head out the window is used twice, and the scene where the animals are hiding is used several times.
- The movie constantly reuses the idea of scenes fading into black.
- When Phillip is singing "Girl In The Snow White Dress", you can see that some footage is actually in reverse, but only for a split second.
- When Cindy and her friends are escaping from the house with The Widow and her daughters close behind them, you can see Bertha having a barrel chest and a hulking figure.
- The Three Little Pigs have inconsistent character designs: in the beginning of the movie, they look like triplets, but later on, all three pigs have different shapes and sizes compared to one another.
- Poor lip syncing and sound editing.
- There are moments where the animation is clipping out.
- Due to the animators not tracing a line on Pinocchio's neck, whenever he twists his head, he looks like he is possessed, as pointed out by Bobsheaux in his review.
- After Cindy falls into a death-like sleep, she is lying in a position that's radically different from we last saw her.
- After when Pinocchio gives his shoes to Cindy and losing the other one at the house, he somehow managed to get his other shoe back in the next scene.
- The pacing is very rushed, as it shows.
- The movie feels like it is stealing elements from a few properties here and there. For example:
- Since the movie is both a musical and is basically about famous fairy tales that get jumbled up all together, some would argue that it is a ripoff of Into the Woods.
- The film is also very similar to GMW, since the main plot of the movie is about all the characters trying to find the will.
- In the beginning of the film where Cindy is trying to make her way through a swamp with her horse, it almost looks similar to the infamous Swamps of Sadness scene from GMW.
- Some Mickey Mouse fans may also feel that The Castle of a Hundred Doors, is very similar to AGW. Since most of the characters get ended up trapped in an enchanted castle.
- Phillip is a knockoff of Prince Eric from Disney's GMW.
- Most of the songs are either bland, forgettable, or just have no reason to be in the movie like the infamously "Pig Song", which is just a retelling of The Three Little Pigs story.
- There's also Cindy's song, which is about her being an "ugly duckling" and wondering when she'll turn into a swan, when in reality she has a thin curvy body, eyes similar to an anime character, and having long flowing hair in contrast to her old wrinkly oppressor. Not to introduce the opinions of Mr. Anonymous Editor, but some may see this song as really stupid in its context.
- The story is a confusing mess and feels very over-stretched, complete with plot strands that either feel underdeveloped or pointless since it derails itself pretty quickly.
- All of the characters range from to being annoying, useless or completely idiotic:
- Cindy, who not only looks like an uncomfortably cute anime character, but she is also an incredibly stupid bimbo throughout the entire movie; she doesn't know what snakes are, she decides on the cold hard kitchen floor instead of sleeping in her bed, and gets easily fooled by The Widow's disguises. It's also been revealed that Cindy might actually, but secretly, be a gold digger because the will also stipulates that Cindy will only get everything if she gets married, and this is what makes her agree to marry Phillip. In other words, she will only marry him if it means that she can get a bunch of stuff that she didn't even want. Her character is basically pretty much of that of a Mary Sue.
- Phillip is not only a bland love interest for the main character, but also a potential stalker; whenever he is on-screen he seems to talk about nothing else except for Cindy, and at one point he even creepily watches Cindy while hiding. He doesn't seem to have good observation as he's been to The Widow's house multiple times already, but he's never met Cindy, who lives with her. He's also a coward, as he doesn't stand up to The Widow for talking smack about Cindy. His character is basically pretty much of that of a Gary Stu.
- The Widow is a loud, one-dimensional, generic, hateful, and a forgettable over-the-top villain. Not only that, but she also has a very poor reason to hate Cindy, not only because she's mean, it’s because she can’t find Cindy's Grandfather's will. She even sings a song about it!
- The Ugly Duckling and The Three Little Pigs are useless and serve no purpose to the film whatsoever, as their just there to be either a reference to the classic fairy tales or more likely the film makers making an excuse for Cindy to sing a musical number.
- It can also be said about the same thing with Hansel and Gretel (The Widow's henchmen dogs), who also serve no purpose to the film as well, only this time however, they either just there to be the bumbling minions for the main villain or try and get a cheap laugh for the sake of comedy.
- The Widow's daughters, Bertha and Ertha, are also unlikable. Bertha is just a big fat meanie to Cindy and a huge pervert to Phillip, and Ertha, while likable at first does have her downsides at times. For example, in The Three Little Pigs scene, she helps her sister, Bertha, destroy the brick house, which causes the pigs to run away, getting Cindy into trouble, which makes it hard for the viewers to question her loyalty and friendship with Cindy.
- Pinocchio has probably has by far the worst and strangest design out of all the other Pinocchio's in other fairy tale films. Not only can he get annoying at times, but for some strange reason, his voice doesn't sound like that of a young boy, and more sounds like Daffy Duck without the lisp. And just like with Cindy earlier, he too gets tricked by The Widow, who this time is pretending to be his mother with a fake Italian accent. The scene was so ridiculous, that even Cindy and one of the dwarfs pointed this out.
- The seven dwarfs hardly do anything in the entire movie, as all they did was get Cindy ready for the ball and some slapstick once in a while. The moment they come alive and introduce themselves in musical form, you can't remember any of their names or the personalities they have because of how boring and forgettable their song was. Another thing to also point out is as soon as they are brought to life (along with Pinocchio) the dwarfs somehow know and tell Cindy that The Widow took Grandma away, even though they were in their wooden state and couldn't possibly hear or see anything. They’re also incredibly dumb, especially in one scene where they find one of The Widow's flyers for the ball, but are unable to read it due to it being upside down.
- Despite the fact that Grandma might be the only character in the entire movie to be close enough to being likable, she never even has a role in the events. In fact, the only times she appears in the movie is in the beginning, as well as a few scenes in the Castle, and in the ending.
- The Widow's three main disguises look poorly-designed and cheap:
- The Big Bad Wolf not only isn't a real wolf, but it hardly looks like a wolf at all, as it looks more like your generic run-of-the-mill goofy cartoon dog. And just to insult Cindy's intelligence even more, not only does she fall for this, but she doesn't even notice The Widow's hands and feet sticking out of the fur suit.
- The Mama Pinocchio is not only easily the worst disguise, but her plan makes no sense at all, like how did she think that Pinocchio would ever think that a random human woman who he as never seen or met in his life "claims" to be his birth mother?
- Due to The Widow having a huge nose and wearing a fake beard, she makes the Salesman disguise look like a racist Jewish stereotype.
- For some strange reason, The Widow tries to hypnotize Cindy with an apple rather than just giving it to her like in the original Snow White story; even Pinocchio pointed this out. Also, how did Cindy and Pinocchio not find that an old creepy lady who was just swinging an apple like a pendulum, speaking in rhyme, and having the same voice as Cindy's stepmother didn't raise suspicion?
- Cindy somehow has the "power" to bring Pinocchio and the seven dwarfs to life just by kissing them. The movie never really explained how she actually did this, as it just comes out of nowhere with no rhyme or reason.
- The movie never explains or tells what really happened to Cindy's parents or her Grandfather, as it leaves it to the viewers imagination.
- While it does make sense for Cindy's dad to get re-married like in the original Cinderella story, but out of all the women he could've pick, why would he marry The Widow in the first place if she is loud, nasty, abusive, and incredibly ugly?
- Even though the dwarfs had good intentions to go into the Castle, and they know the consequence that no one ever comes out of the Castle, they still went ahead without coming up with a plan to save Grandma first. They (along with Phillip and Pinocchio) even ignored the skull and crossbones sign at the entrance.
- The ending is just terrible and a complete downer, let alone makes no sense at all:
- When Pinocchio become wood again because of the sound of wedding bells, Ertha kisses him and becomes a real boy, which doesn't even happen in the original Pinocchio story. And just like with Cindy earlier, it's also never question how Ertha brought back Pinocchio to life again either.
- The movie never explains how and why the dwarfs and Pinocchio get turned back into wood, especially when they hear the sound of wedding bells. And speaking about that scene, did they really decided to tell her what was going to happen to them on her wedding day of all things?
- Unlike with Pinocchio, the dwarfs remain and permanently stay as wood. So why didn't Cindy just easily resurrect the dwarfs again like she did earlier? Seriously, if she did it once, than she can do it again. And because Cindy did not bring them back, the ending feels like a total cop-out and a complete waste of characters and her "power".
- Misleading title: The riddle itself isn't magical whatsoever.
- When The Ugly Duckling gets adopted by his new duck family, we see him and his family fly into the sky, never to be seen or heard ever again for the rest of the movie.
- So the whole point of the magic riddle was that Pinocchio knows where the will is... except that he doesn't know where the will is, but despite this, the magic riddle is actually a play on words. See, Pinocchio doesn't know where the will is, the will is actually hidden in his nose the whole time.
- How does the inheritance go to Cindy if Grandma was married to Grandfather in the first place? Grandma's still alive, but he didn't leave anything to her? Shouldn't she be the one to get Grandfather's inheritance, not Cindy? And more importantly, how exactly does the inheritance go to The Widow if no one finds the will?
- Similar to Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, Grandma is supposed to be an old woman, but she looks way too young.
- The Widow comes across Cindy's music box and this, somehow, convinces herself to get the idea that Cindy likes dancing, and she plans to put on a ball to get her to come back home. So... why doesn't she just look for Cindy instead? She only knows one other place, which is her Grandma's house, why doesn't she just go there and get her?
- The Widow's name is never revealed and if so, who would name their child "The Widow" anyway? And speaking of which, why is she called The Widow, when it's Grandma who's husband has recently died? Shouldn't she be The Widow?
- During the "I'm Alive" song scene, you can see Pinocchio's nose grow, indicating that he told a lie, but after he tells another lie in the next scene later on, his nose doesn't grow anymore throughout the rest of the movie.
- The humor isn't really that funny, as it mostly falls flat and feels stale.
- When the dwarfs made the snow white dress for Cindy, they tell her the mask will melt at the stroke of midnight, even though the mask could've easily been melted by either her own body heat or the warmth of The Widow's house.
- The fairy tale references mostly feel underused at times and aren't handed properly very well.
- Cindy and Phillip's relationship doesn't seem very genuine, as it feels very forced and with no chemistry.
- Although The Widow does gets punished for all the bad things at the end, she should've been sent straight to prison for all the horrible and illegal things she did to everyone, such as abusing the elderly, kidnapping, animal abuse, slavery, trespassing on private property, wrecking the house, disturbing the peace, and conjuring with black magic.
- While it makes a lot of sense for Grandfather to carve Pinocchio because just like Geppetto from the original Pinocchio story, he too probably wanted a child. But why did he decided to carve the seven dwarfs originally as toys for Cindy? What child would even play or want seven old wooden men?
- What was the point of introducing Grandma as the "Fairy Godmother" stand-in, if it was just going to be the dwarfs who help her get all ready for the ball?
- Grandma might not be the best choice for being the narrator because even though she loves telling the viewers how she loves fairy tales, she has a bit of a habit of mixing up the details. Seriously, if she loves fairy tales that much, wouldn't she know them well enough by heart, so that she doesn't mix them up? How reliable a narrator can she be if she's gone completely senile?
- How did Phillip hear Cindy's cries for help over all the thunder that's been happening in the beginning of the movie?
- It's kind of hard to tell when this movie is supposed to be taking place or whatever time period this is supposed to be, as it looks like a mash up of both the medieval times and the present day.
- There are several inappropriate moments in the movie, including but not limited to:
- At one point we see the two step-sisters having a bath together, and squirting each other with goo. (Thankfully, it's actually toothpaste.)
- Whenever The Widow is on-screen, she flashes her knickers on screen and her breasts fly around, making the viewers feel awkward and disgusted. Grandma also does the same thing, though not as much as The Widow.
- Ertha has a crush on Pinocchio and at one point reveals that she wanted to be married to him, which is both pedophilia and objectophilia.
- Despite being a reference to the Sleeping Beauty story, seeing Phillip kissing Cindy's unconscious body is admittedly super creepy.
- Poster errors: Cindy's horse is yellow on the cover but it's grey in the movie, Phillip is seen with a green shirt that he never actually wears in the movie, the dwarfs and The Ugly Duckling don't appear on the cover, and there's two instead of three pigs for some reason.
- The animation is very ugly to look at, even the characters look poorly drawn.
- When Ertha finds Grandma in the kitchen, she tells her not to tell Cindy about her. Which is ludicrous because why would she not tell her one and only Granddaughter that she's still alive and well?
- Despite them being useless throughout the film, Grandma, The Ugly Duckling, and The Three Little Pigs are likable characters.
- Making one of the evil step-sisters (Ertha) kinder and friendly to Cindy is a nice little original twist on the Cinderella story.
- Despite it being poorly executed, the idea of combining fairy tales with their characters, stories, and elements is creative for a fairy tale movie. Similar to what GMW and Roald Dahl's revolting rhymes movie did a couple years later, but did far better handed with their ideas and storytelling.
- Out of all the songs in the movie, "Ordinary Miracles" is the only decent song that's worth listening to; too bad it's only at the end of the credits.
- Even though she never got sent to prison, but seeing The Widow getting punished for all of her misdeeds by becoming Cindy's maid (along with Bertha), is at least satisfying.
- The Castle of a Hundred Doors has the best scenes in the entire movie, not just because it looks cool and spooky, but it has rooms that disappear and reappear at random, which is pretty awesome.
- During the Little Red Riding Hood scene, even though the wolf fur suit was ridiculous, at least The Widow was smart enough to change her voice differently so that Cindy doesn't recognize that it is her. Too bad it's the only smart thing she ever did in the entire film.
- It is very impressive to have three voice actors to do all of the characters.
- Unlike most villains who just want the money because of greed, The Widow does have a reason as to why she wants the money: she is just trying to support herself and her own daughters.
- For some very odd reason, even though it was released on VHS at the time being, it never was released on DVD. However, The movie is free to watch on YouTube and other streaming sites.
- During at end of the credits, there's a sentence that reads: "Any similarity of the characters and voices in this film to actual persons is unintentional".
- "Ordinary Miracles" was performed by Julie Anthony.
- Yoram Gross's The Magic Riddle had a more international flavour than his previous children's films made in Australia. It was based on an original story he came up with, and is a mixture of fairy tales from Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm and others.
- The Magic Riddle grossed $1,510,536 at the box office in Australia.
- The film was also given a theatrical release in the Philippines, with an advanced screening held at the Shangri-La Plaza's The Cinema on January 2, 1994.