If you're looking to understand the full depth and breadth of Michelle Pfeiffer's excellence on the silver screen, you could be forgiven for skipping her second film, Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen. In terms of Essential Pfeiffer, it's far from it. Still, it's always worth exploring her earliest work, before she became Michelle Pfeiffer, Movie Star, in order to catch glimpses of her unique talents, just beginning to manifest at such a young age.
Baby Pfeiffer makes the most of a really goofy part in a really goofy movie. She’s plucky and almost always smiling with great gusto. At one point she confidently grabs the reins in an absurdly bonkers horse and buggy race that has to be seen to be believed. Her excellent comic timing, which would become more apparent years later and in better films, is at least hinted at here. Even if it's hard to find many signs pointing towards future greatness in the performance, she’s downright adorable in the film.
The best way to describe this movie is “very much of its time”, with all that entails. It’s intermittently funny but sometimes the slapstick style is groan-worthy. Pfeiffer plays Cordelia, fiancé to the bumbling idiot-savant grandson of the famed detective Charlie Chan (who is played by the Russian actor Peter Ustinov—remember, “very much of its time”). Together, Baby Pfeiffer and future hubby literally stumble and careen their way through one misadventure after another—wait til you get to the one where they sing happy birthday to a dog in order to save their own lives! It’s as exciting as it sounds!