Ella Enchanted is mostly known these days as an early Anne Hathaway effort that didn’t really do much for critics or fans. Of course, it has Anne Hathaway. So, eight years after the fact, it gets the Blu-ray release you never asked for or needed.
If Shrek had never existed and it were still 2004, then I’d probably like Ella Enchanted slightly more than I do. The Anne Hathaway fairy tale with modern sensibilities and juxtaposition jokes smells too much like the Mike Myers ogre and donkey buddy picture from 2001, with a heaping helping of girl power. It’s not a great movie, regardless, but it suffers in comparison to the far superior movie and gets a little staler every time it is viewed.
It’s really too bad, because there are several great actors at work, here. Hathaway, playing the titular Ella, is fresh off Princess Diaries and is as appealing and enjoyable as ever—it’s simply that her character is kinda boring. It might have seemed better when a heroine who was smart, tough, and her own woman was a newish kind of thing, but that day has long passed and we are now flush with plucky and self-sufficient gals in fairy (or fairy-ish) tales. This is old hat.
The plot is pretty directly out of fairy tale crazy. Hathaway’s Ella is cursed by a fairy (Vivaca A. Fox) into living a life where she is forced to do everything she’s told. The “gift” of obedience. It’s as horrible as it sounds. Despite this, nothing much happens until her mother dies and her father (Patrick Bergin) marries her wicked step-mother (Joanna Lumley), a package that is complete with wicked step-sisters. Ella’s developed a sense of justice and is against how ogres (ogres!) and elves and other creatures are being robbed of their land by the Prince Regent (Cary Elwes), are made to endure prejudice, and are forced to work as slaves. That’s right, the point of this movie is that slavery and prejudice are wrong. Ella sees it and tries to make her budding romance partner and future king Prince Char (Hugh Dancy) see it too.
Here’s an example of the quality of the jokes in Ella Enchanted. The evil stepmother says she wants to look 25 for a royal ball and wonders how can that be achieved. Another character mutters, “time machine.” Get it? Clearly, I can’t stop laughing. It’s almost as funny when an elf tries to climb up on a bench next to a giant and the giant’s fart blows him off the bench. Most of the jokes are of that ilk. Well, that’s the only fart joke but there is an ogre (an ogre!) who gets hit in the nuts by a post…hi-larious.
So, you have a movie that was sorta derivative in 2004 and seems even more so now. It has fairy tale kids saying “bite me” to each other, which really wasn’t even that funny when the phrase was a thing. Ella Enchanted doesn’t even have great jokes or light-hearted performances to save it.
The Blu-ray combo pack gives you the glorious HD, but nothing else that is new from previous DVD releases. Everything included has already been released so if you have a DVD version, I can’t really see the need to upgrade to this set. The HD is nice, but really, two copies of Ella Enchanted, who needs that?
There is a pretty charming commentary from director Tommy O’Haver, Anne Hathaway, and Hugh Dancy, which seems--based on what they are saying at times—to have been recorded right before the film premiered in theaters. The commentary is both informative and fun. There are way, way too many “ohhh, that person is so nice and so great and so amazing” moments in the commentary, but there is also a lot of breezy back and forth between the three people, as well as backstage information that is always fun to hear, especially with the large number of effects shots in this film.
Once you get past the commentary, things get “eh” pretty quickly. There are two half-hour “making-of” specials that must have played on TV around the time of the film’s release. They are fine, but use the same material, right down to the same introduction and quotes, so they are pretty repetitive. One features the film’s premiere and the other focuses on some behind-the-scenes stuff and interviews. There’s even a push to make one of the soundtrack artists into the new teen singing sensation, and it’s funny to realize that eight years later, this was probably the only thing she ever did, since I’ve never heard of her. At nearly an hour total, there is a lot of repeated content.
Making sure nothing goes to waste, there are about 15 minutes in either extended or deleted scenes. These also feature commentary, this time by O’Haver and Dancy. Nothing really jumps out as particularly hilarious or critical to watch, but if you like the film, you’ll get a little bit more of it.
The rest of it is filler junk. There is a music video for the song “It’s Not Just Make-Believe” sung by the person I’ve never heard of. It’s not a good song. There is a game for kids that’s on the DVD only and you can put the DVD in your computer and get some more material. Plus, there are some trailers for the worst animated and kids movies I think I’ve ever seen. They all looked awful. The movie’s not great and this set of extras is a repeat of the DVD. No real reason to pick this up.