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Meghan Markle's Disney debut gets a drubbing from critics – Daily Mail

By March 31, 2020 Entertainment News

Meghan Markle’s performance as narrator of a documentary about elephants has been branded ‘over-eager to please’ and packed with ‘schmaltz and cheesiness’ by critics.

The Duchess of Sussex, who officially steps down as a senior member of the Royal Family today with Prince Harry, provided the voiceover to the Disney production after a direct request from filmmakers.

It is understood she recorded it in London last autumn after seeing footage of the documentary, which will start streaming on Disney+ on April 3.

It sees African elephant Shani and her spirited son Jomo as they are led by their great matriarch, Gaia, across the Kalahari Desert. They face dwindling resources and vicious predators as they try to follow their ancestor’s footsteps to a green paradise. 

Meghan Markle's performance as narrator of a documentary about elephants has been branded 'over-eager to please' and packed with 'schmaltz and cheesiness' by critics

Meghan Markle’s performance as narrator of a documentary about elephants has been branded ‘over-eager to please’ and packed with ‘schmaltz and cheesiness’ by critics

Reviews from British and US press have been relatively consistent, with critics awarding it an average of three stars and praising its stunning cinematography as it follows a family of elephants travelling 1,000 miles from Botswana’s Okavango Delta to the Zambezi and Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe Zambia border.

When it comes to Meghan, her ‘excitable tones’ are a ‘perfect fit for the natural-history-with-the-edges-shaved off remit’, according to Empire’s Ian Freer, who awarded the film three stars.

‘For her part, Markle’s delivery of the commentary is wholesome and over-eager to please,’ he added, citing some of her vocal observations such as: ‘It’s time for a pool party!’ when the elephants take a mud bath.

He added that the duchess ‘just about stays the right side of annoying’.

Reviews of Elephant have been relatively consistent, with critics awarding it an average of three stars and praising its stunning cinematography as it follows a family of elephants travelling 1,000 miles from Botswana's Okavango Delta to the Zambezi and Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe Zambia border

Reviews of Elephant have been relatively consistent, with critics awarding it an average of three stars and praising its stunning cinematography as it follows a family of elephants travelling 1,000 miles from Botswana’s Okavango Delta to the Zambezi and Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe Zambia border

The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin, who awarded it three stars, said the documentary is ‘not quite Attenborough’, admitting Meghan’s ‘honeyed alto’ is ‘a fine match for the tone of the piece, which vacillates between regal and cutesy-poo with occasional gusts of girl-power uplift’. 

The Times’s Ed Potton was decidedly more scathing – evident by his two-star rating.

He said Meghan is ‘swapping pomp and circumstance for schmaltz and cheesiness’, adding: ‘The departing Duchess of Sussex narrates Disney’s tale of a herd of elephants crossing the Kalahari Desert from the Okavango delta to the Zambezi River, and boy does she lay it on thick.’

Ed observed how her ‘silken tones’ employed on the legal drama Suits which were ‘often muzzled during her time as a full-time royal’ are now ‘given free rein’.

Variety's Owen Gleiberman said Meghan does 'an inviting version of the wholesome but amused Disney narrator singsong', while the Daily Express' George Simpson, who gave it four stars, said the duchess 'comes across very warmly, with most of her lines sounding like she's beaming fondly at the elephants we're watching'

Variety’s Owen Gleiberman said Meghan does ‘an inviting version of the wholesome but amused Disney narrator singsong’, while the Daily Express’ George Simpson, who gave it four stars, said the duchess ‘comes across very warmly, with most of her lines sounding like she’s beaming fondly at the elephants we’re watching’

He did concede that she has an ‘actor’s way’ with a phrase and a ‘likeable sense of mischief’, but concluded the performance often feels ‘overegged’. 

‘Even the underwhelming moment in which the elephants rip some bark off a tree is presented like the announcement of the winner for best picture,’ Ed deduced. 

‘To anyone raised on Attenborough’s urbane authority… it all feels a little bit shallow.’ 

The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw, who awarded Elephant three stars, was more complimentary, claiming Meghan takes to Disney-narration ‘like an anthropomorphic duck to water’.

At times, he says, she injects ‘torrents of schmaltz’, not helped by the ‘outrageously unverifiable’ things she is given to say.

He concluded the documentary is a ‘technically impressive work with some lovely images – and a bit of a sugary taste’. 

Variety’s Owen Gleiberman said Meghan does ‘an inviting version of the wholesome but amused Disney narrator singsong’, while the Daily Express’ George Simpson, who gave it four stars, said the duchess ‘comes across very warmly, with most of her lines sounding like she’s beaming fondly at the elephants we’re watching’.

He said the duchess’ added tension at the right moments, especially when the herd came across more serious moments like being surrounded by lions and hyenas, but at times it tips over into ‘cheesy and sentimental in a classic American Disney kind of way’.

Meghan’s fee for the project is going entirely to the Elephants Without Borders charity – an organisation dedicated to conserving wildlife and helps protect the animals from poaching. 

Last year the duchess joked that she and Harry attended the premiere of The Lion King in London, to ‘pitch’ for work, footage from the event revealed.

Meghan's fee for the project is going entirely to the Elephants Without Borders charity - an organisation dedicated to conserving wildlife and helps protect the animals from poaching. Pictured: Harry and Meghan at the Mountbatten Music Festival at Royal Albert Hall

Meghan’s fee for the project is going entirely to the Elephants Without Borders charity – an organisation dedicated to conserving wildlife and helps protect the animals from poaching. Pictured: Harry and Meghan at the Mountbatten Music Festival at Royal Albert Hall

Prince Harry was also filmed touting his wife’s voiceover skills to Disney boss Bob Iger at the occasion in July.

In the shocking video, Prince Harry pointed to his wife and said: ‘You do know she does voiceovers?’ A surprised Mr Iger replies: ‘I did not know that’, before Harry continues: ‘You seem surprised, she’s really interested’.

The Disney boss says: ‘We’d love to try. That’s a great idea,’ while Meghan, who was next to Prince Harry, continues speaking to Beyonce.

Meghan gave up a successful career as an actress – with her most prominent role being is US legal drama Suits – when becoming engaged to Prince Harry in 2017.

But the arrangement with Disney hints at Meghan’s future career plans, which could see the couple use their celebrity status to benefit chosen causes.

Last month it was revealed that Meghan could make $100 million this year if she accepts all the offers that come her way, media executive Simon Huck has claimed. 

Last month it was revealed that Meghan could make $100 million this year if she accepts all the offers that come her way, media executive Simon Huck has claimed. Pictured: Meghan and Harry at the Commonwealth Day service earlier this month

Last month it was revealed that Meghan could make $100 million this year if she accepts all the offers that come her way, media executive Simon Huck has claimed. Pictured: Meghan and Harry at the Commonwealth Day service earlier this month

Speaking to The Morning Toast Simon, 36, from Canada, owner of the public relations firm Command Entertainment Group, claims his agency was ‘flooded’ with ‘huge’ offers of work for the former actress in the wake of Megxit.

Simon, who is a close friend of Kim Kardashian, is not believed to be representing Meghan, but has been inundated regardless.

Meanwhile, bosses of The Simpsons have revealed they want the duchess to appear in their popular comedy.

The programme’s showrunner and executive producer Al Jean discussed the prospect of the cameo in an interview with the Radio Times, and said Meghan should ‘give him a call’ about the idea.

He revealed: ‘We’ve talked about Harry and Meghan. I hear she wants to do voiceover work. So if they’re reading this, give us a call.’

Ladbrokes revealed Meghan and the documentary are at 20/1 to win the Feature Length Documentary category at next year’s Oscars.  


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