Right, so we’ve looked at each panto individually, now I want to take a little time to rank them in times of personal feeling, from my least to best like. Won’t take long, you may be able to guess where they all sit, but trust me when I say that this was more difficult than I initially thought it might be.
4) Cinderella (2000)
I had a big problem when planning this post as to whether Cinderella or Aladdin was worse. In the end, I chose Cinderella for one real reason; the levels of filler and pointless scenes is obnoxious. Such a large amount of filler just drags the entire pace of the thing down, add to this the fact that very few of the performances really stand out, save perhaps Frank Skinner as Buttons and Sian Phillips as the evil Baroness (and even then, they’re hardly exceptional). It’s not particularly funny, panto regulars Paul Merton and Julian Clary are not best used here at all. Harry Hill is also pretty funny but the sea of filler, bad songs and mediocre performances just weigh it down far too much.
3) Aladdin (2000)
While Aladdin has some of the problems Cinderella suffers with, such as the fact it’s fairly boring and full of forgettable songs, I think it’s better for a few reasons. Firstly, some of the performances stand out; Lisa Riley is likeable as Handy the handmaiden, Martin Clunes is a fun (if pretty racist) villain, and John Savident is enjoyable as Widow Twankey. However, it’s the special effects that really save Aladdin from being the worst of these pantos, they all really took me aback when I watched it again, I’ve genuinely never seen anything as good as them in a panto before. Granted, Aladdin might suffer from some more damaging flaws than Cinderella (such as the racism, the weird choice to have an Egyptian villain in a story set in China, the spirit of the ring is totally pointless, audience participation was not anticipated enough, the list goes on) but it does do some really good things which just save it from oblivion.
2) Jack and the Beanstalk (1998)
Jack and the Beanstalk is genuinely fun. It’s funny, the characters are mostly enjoyable; Clary, Edmondson, and Walters are of particular note here, and the songs are really catchy in places. It’s a solid panto with lots to like about it and few major issues, save the missed opportunity of the giant who might’ve been portrayed by a puppet or given a fun celebrity voice. Of the four, it is one of the two I definitely recommend, providing you can weather some of the plot holes, bad jokes, and pointless characters.
1) Dick Whittington (2002)
Dick Whittington is probably the best of the four. Not only is it surprisingly funny in places but the characters are all great, Merton and Clary are both at their best here, and it has the feel of a real adventure. Th only real failing is the fact that things get a bit rushed at the end and interesting characters end up with nothing to do, not to mention my problems with the good fairy, Harry Hill, and Mrs Fitzwilliam. When I was planning this post I had a lot of trouble figuring out which panto was better, Jack and the Beanstalk or Dick Whittington. In the end I felt Dick Whittington was better, dealing with some of the problems Jack and the Beanstalk has but also giving us a really strong hour or so before a weak and rushed final few minutes. It’s great, watch it this Christmas time.