Anne Hathaway is a talented and charismatic actress, whose so far brief filmography reads like ABC’s Saturday morning lineup. Her next project, Havoc looks to firmly break her out of the little girl programming mold, but for now her career in kiddie-tainment marches on in Ella Enchanted.
Set in a medieval world that more closely resembles a shopping mall than the dark ages, Ella Enchanted is bland fairytale fare. So when a jaunty ex-Python traipses on screen and begins abusing cats, it’s no surprise to hear him muttering on about fairy godmothers, non-sexy (non-Tolkien) elves, giants, and curses. Sadly, this isn’t Holy Grail 2: Wooden Badger of Justice. Instead, this is the story of Ella (Anne Hathaway), a girl gifted by a random fairy godmother with obedience. In fact, fairy mojo makes it impossible for her to disobey anyone. But Ella has a will of her own and when a particularly naughty step-family moves in, she sets out to find her fairy godmother and break the obedience curse.
Along the road to freedom, she encounters the handsome prince Char (is he flaming?) and takes an instant disliking to him. Ella is something of a political activist and Char’s uncle has been doing all sorts of naughty things to the environment. Despite their political differences, Char and Ella reach something of an understanding (in other words Char agrees with everything Ella says) and Prince Char agrees to help Ella and her Jewish Elf friends in finding her fairy godmother.
Over at the castle, Carey Elwes is back in black as Char’s uncle, the Prince Regent Edgar. Edgar is not pleased with Char’s recent political liberalism, and thus plots with his pet snake (yes his pet snake) to assassinate Char and assure his continued place as ruler of whatever land it is that he’s ruling over. Ella’s still stuck doing whatever she’s told, so you can bet Edgar might find a way to put that to good use.
The result of this mixing of politics and fairy-talk is a low budget disaster. The plot itself is actually pretty straightforward, but the movie is so poorly written that it comes off as a jumbled mess. Anne Hathaway is charming and magnetic, but her journey across fairyland is laughable, a series of co-incidences and instantaneous edits. The creatures she encounters are less than fantastic, simply because the movie didn’t have the budget to make them so. Elves are just Jewish guys in green tights. Giants are normal people (some of them in mini-skirts) projected up on a green screen behind the primary actors. Ogres are fat guys with blue spray paint on their heads.
The thing to realize is that this movie wasn’t made for me or you. This is a flick targeted directly at kids and little girls in particular. Kids will overlook the film’s lack of attention to detail and just plain bad effects in favor of a fun adventure about becoming a princess… one that probably should have been direct-to-video. I suppose we should just be thankful this wasn’t a musical. Ella Enchanted saves the horrid song and dance number for the closing credits. Smart parents will already be on their way out the door by then.