The Trumpet of the Swan

Animation, storytelling and acting all combine in their worst forms to make the extremely dull “Trumpet of the Swan.” This is a movie that is aimed at kids, but you should protect them from it, as it will turn their minds to mush.

It’s based on the charming E.B. White story, and very little of that charm has remained. The main character is Louie (voice of Dee Baker), a trumpeter swan who was born without a voice (though we can hear his thoughts sometimes). His loving parents (Jason Alexander and Mary Steenburgen) had looked forward to raising a proud son to carry on the family name and make lots of loud swanny sounds; when he turns out to be mute, they stop loving him.

I’m just kidding. They still love him, but they’re awfully disappointed. So they direct most of their love and attention to Louie’s sisters, who make plenty of noise. Louie grows up an outcast in swan society, an intelligent lad with no way to communicate.

Then one day he gets an idea: He’ll learn to read and write people words, thus giving him a voice! To that end, he heads for the city and goes to school with his human friend, Sam (Sam Gifaldi), a young boy who seems not to have any mammalian friends to speak of. Sam’s teacher, Mrs. Hammerbottom (Carol Burnett), is hesitant at first, but soon warms to the idea of instructing a water fowl.

Louie learns to read and write and heads back to the pond, excited to communicate. Unfortunately, none of the other swans possess this knowledge, and they just wonder why Louie the retard is drawing squiggles on a portable chalkboard. His father has already stolen a trumpet from a music store in the hopes he can play it and find his “voice” that way, and Louie decides he’ll just have to make do with that.

But he feels guilty for having stolen the trumpet, so Louie saves his father’s honor by getting a job at a summer camp and earning enough money to pay for it. He saves a kid from drowning, too, and plays an outdoor concert in Boston. He’s a feathered Forrest Gump, this one.

The movie is sincere enough, but its sense of humor is almost non-existent. Events as bizarre and unbelievable as these should be portrayed with whimsy. Instead, the movie plows ahead determinedly, never stopping to look at what fun could be had on the way.

To make matters worse, the animation is stilted and boring, with characters’ expressions hardly changing. The actors tend to over-dramatize everything, particularly Alexander and Burnett. And the songs are borderline dreadful, full of lazy rhymes like “super” and “future.”

It’s possible a young child would be entertained by the goings-on, but unlikely. There’s not enough movement, wackiness or humor to amuse anyone by the most easily amused of children.

D (; G, with nothing offensive (or entertaining, that matter).)