Swan Princess (number 5): A Royal Family Tale. Watched it out of curiosity because I remembered the first three films. I will examine Plot, Character and Polish and then assign a grade.
This is the most original/different of the Swan Princess sequels in terms of plot. There are no expies/former partners of Rothbart to serve as villains or holiday themes. Granted, the idea of a Chosen One prophecy is not original but I'm not thinking about that kind of scale but the scale of the series (you can see what I think about absolute originality at this here link). Also, Odette doesn't get kidnapped! Does that count as a spoiler? It's a point in this story's favor of altering the recipe established by the first three films.
The third point of difference is the sense of time. Every film following the first treated Derek and Odette as in the early stages of their marriage. The fourth film was about their first Christmas as a couple. This is the first one to go beyond that and give a sense of them being married for some time. Also, adopting a child certainly changes the dynamics. Again granted, Alise fills the Damsel In Distress role filled by Odette previously but having Odette being part of the rescue party is still a point of change; the fourth point of change. Another little spoiler alert: no changing into a swan this time (number 5!)
A sixth point is that there's a different sort of ending than the first three and the stock footage from the end of the first does not make an appearance here. That's a favorable thing about the switch to CGI right?
Enough about the differences. This plot itself is one that I like.
The plot of "chosen one preventing about a golden age" is classic medieval fantasy. Furthermore, that there is a band of rescuers with diverse skills (a hunter, a flyer, a chemist, etc.) further calls to mind the classic quest narrative.
Alise is not dropped in for the cute factor; she is well integrated into the story. The movie begins with Uberta saying I Want Grandkids and the main couple discussing it afterward. Alise' father is killed incidentally by the Forbidden Arts and Odette feels a kinship with her because of this. Alise herself does something to defeat the Big Bad.
Alise is adorable. She is a cute little Woobie taken into the loving care of Odette and Derek. That the animators were able to convey so much emotion from her without having her say a word for 99% of the film is a credit to them. Her relationships with others are cute and sweet but not saccharine (YMMV of course).
Odette's more active role is much appreciated. In my opinion, she was always on the verge of it but plot hang ups interrupted it. It's not an Action Girl thing but a Plucky Girl thing mixed with All Loving Heroine. It's also a Mama Bear thing; in the words of Scully "there's no strength like a mother's love".
Derek is not an idiot for once. The movie's plot is not underpinned by some Idiot Ball like in previous movies ("What else is there?" to "I'll destroy the notes after the festival" and others). More perceptive with people and traps and doesn't go off alone anymore. Like with Odette, this character development is welcome in my book.
Scully the Scullion (i.e. Flying Squirrel) is my favorite character in this movie It is how his voice sounds both wise and comical. It is in his skill with potions. It is the jokes he makes without reducing himself to mere comic relief.
The villains are also a refreshing change of pace. Instead of an evil sorcerer and their single minion, a two person operation, there is instead something like a militant cult. Furthermore, the vast majority of them are well-intentioned extremists, which is also a first for this series.
The CGI looks good in my opinion and main characters like Odette avert the No Flow in CGI thing regarding hair. I haven't seen the fourth film so I can't speak about its quality but the CGI here is good. After watching the first three films it can take some getting used to, that's all.
Trickster Eric Novels gives Swan Princess (number 5): A Royal Family Tale an A+