Ella Enchanted Movie Review

Ella Enchanted is a familiar fairytale: a young woman must overcome an extreme set of obstacles to land her prince charming. The telling of this mythical fable, based on the novel by Gail Carson Levine, is a cross between Ever After (or any other Cinderella story) and The Princess Bride. And while there are plenty of elves, ogres, giants and stepsisters to fill a forest of enchantment, the film's lack of originality cripples its attempts to be charming.

At birth, the young Ella (Anne Hathaway) is cursed with a spell that destines her to be obedient. At the drop of a command, she is forced to stop what she is doing and obey orders. Growing up, Ella's curse brings its share of problems, but when an older Ella gains a new stepmother (Joanna Lumley) and two stepsisters, they use Ella's curse to get what they want. They instruct Ella to steal from the local market, hand over her mother's precious locket, and terminate her friendship with an old friend. The stepsisters also have their sights on the soon-to-be-king Prince Charmont (Hugh Dancy), but he fancies Ella. Charmont's uncle, Prince Regent Edgar (Cary Elwes), secretly covets the throne so he can continue the strict governance established by Charmont's father.

A frustrated Ella decides it's finally time to seek out the fairy godmother Lucinda (Vivica A. Fox) that saddled her with the nasty curse to begin withn. With the help of a magic book given to her by her house fairy Mandy (Minnie Driver), Ella sets out into the forest tracking Lucinda's movements. Why is she just now doing this 20-plus years after the curse? It's a little too convenient.

Along her journey, Ella rescues an elf that is tired of being treated like a second-class citizen relegated to tasks of tomfoolery and merrymaking. Later, Ella encounters a gang of hungry, oppressed, ass-crack-showing ogres whose hatred for humans drives their desire to eat Ella for lunch. Escaping that, Ella eventually makes it to a wild wedding reception where a group of enslaved, farm-working giants are celebrating everything but their freedom. And yet, no matter how hard the film tries, none of these characters Ella encounters are the least bit memorable or interesting like those in Bride.

The lack of character development is not limited to the forest creatures. Even Ella is superficially drawn and weak. She's given no real motivation or purpose other than relinquishing the curse and the associated ridicule. Early in the story, there are hints of her political aspirations, but these desires are ditched once her romance with the prince begins. Enchanted finishes with an ending that goes beyond ridiculous with its flying ninja guards and a final song and dance number (obviously lip-synched) to the tune of "Don't Go Breakin' My Heart."

Notwithstanding its unoriginality and the less-than-charismatic Cinderella-lite lead, Enchanted will still find some love with the young girls it targets. There are some amusing modern day references to shopping malls, paper recycling, and Botox. It has just enough wit and humor to make it to the Grand Ball, but in the end, this fairytale, to those who have seen better, is a clear disappointment.

The DVD is done-up Disney style with commentary track, deleted and extended scenes, plus various games and original featurettes.

Frodo lives!


Ella Enchanted Rating

" Weak "

Rating: PG, 2004


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