Meghan Markle’s debut as narrator of a new Disney documentary about elephants in the African wild has been dismissed as a dramatic misfire by some critics, with observations she is “over-eager to please” through “schmaltz and cheesiness” being just two of the more unkind pieces of analysis.
The film is not out until April 3 but early reviews see Elephant score a three out of five rating on movie website Rotten Tomatoes, which averages global film reviews.
Markle recorded Elephant in London prior to she and her husband, Prince Harry, announcing they will step back from the British royal family and live an independent life in North America.
Reviews from British and U.S. press have been relatively consistent, with critics awarding it an average of three stars while praising its stunning cinematography as it follows an elephant family on a 1,000-mile journey across the Kalahari Desert to Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe border.
The Times of London was quick to point to her lack of depth, with critic Ed Potton giving Markle a 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.”
Potton 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.”
He did concede she has an “actor’s way” with a phrase and a “likeable sense of mischief” but that is barely enough to cover a performance he called “overegged.”
Owen Glieberamna of Variety magazine said: “Meghan Markle does an inviting version of the wholesome but amused Disney narrator singsong as she delivers lines like, ‘Shani has already lost track of Jomo. There he is!’
“It feels like an hour-long safari that’s been padded out to 85 minutes.”
Ian Freer of film mag Empire said: “Markle’s delivery of the commentary is wholesome and over-eager to please (“It’s time for a pool party!” “Wait a minute! Who’s this guy?” “Oh, look who’s cut in front of the line? Oh, Jomo!”)… but just about stays the right side of annoying.
“A fun diversion for the kids, but you feel Attenborough could have packaged these often beautifully produced images with more rigour and insight in under an hour.”
The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw joked Meghan’s schmaltz is almost as spectacular as the sight of the elephants rumbling through the wilds of Africa.
He said: “It is an awe-inspiring phenomenon which Meghan matches with her own spectacular torrents of schmaltz.
“‘For elephants, family is everything! In this tight-knit group, someone always has your back!’ and ‘Meet Jomo!’ coos Meghan.
“Again and again, Meghan is given outrageously unverifiable things to say, such as: ‘Gaia remembers these birds leading her mother to the water…’. And Shani later supposedly ‘looks back on all the lessons she learned from Gaia’.
“You expect that this film, like an episode of The Office or Parks and Recreation, is suddenly going to include a shot of Gaia telling an off-camera interviewer: ‘Mmm, yeah, I totally remember my mom being led by those birds over to this water…’.
“A bit of a sugary taste.”
The Duchess of Sussex, who along with Prince Harry has ceased duties as a senior royal, landed the Disney+ job after her husband was filmed suggesting her for a voiceover job at the Lion King premiere, as Breitbart News reported.
In the video, Prince Harry can be heard saying to the studio boss “You do know she does voiceovers?” pressing the point Meghan is “really interested” in working for Disney.
“We’d love to try. That’s a great idea”, replied the Disney boss.
Twitter later deleted the video although it is still to be seen on YouTube: