Budget size is everything with computer animated movies. Money doesn’t matter when it comes to live action. Script, direction, acting, creativity can overcome whatever limitations might be placed on a production by lack of cash. But with computer animation, how much money you spend on making it is often directly proportionate to whether or not it will be any good. Like all the other low-budget CGI movies we’ve been flooded with over the past few years, Happily N’Ever After is pretty terrible. I’m not saying spending more money would have made it better, but then nobody with any sense would have spent much on it anyway.
The film opens with a strange narration which tells you everything that’s going to happen in the movie before it happens. So sixty seconds in you have the film’s beginning, middle, and ending already well in hand. It’s probably a good time to walk out. If you don’t walk out, you’ll end up watching another fairytale Shrek knockoff. Like those great green ogre movies, Happily N’Ever After is all about pointing out the ways in which fairytales have it all wrong. Instead of a farting fat monster as their unlikely hero, they have Prince Charming’s shoeshine boy Rick. Rick is in love with Cinderella, but Cinderella is all caught up in obsessing over the kingdom’s brain-dead but muscle-bound ruler.
Before Cinderella can finish wooing the Prince, things go wrong and Cindy’s wicked step-mother takes over the magic that controls Fairytale Kingdom, turning everything nasty and ruining all the fairytale happy endings. Well we’re told she’s doing that, but there’s really not that much evil in evidence. Sure, her henchman take over the castle, but they’re a lot nicer to the help than Prince Charming’s snobby lot. Some dwarfs get knocked down, but otherwise the wicked step-mother’s rule really isn’t all that wicked. Mostly, she sits in her tower monologing. What’s the harm in that?
Whatever the movie did have to spend, was spent almost entirely on an all star voice cast. Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr. lead the way, with other notables like Wallace Shawn and Patrick Warburton (both of whom deserve to be doing voice work in better movies) mixed in. As a result, the film does a lot of telling instead of showing. Most of the movie’s potentially least boring scenes happen off camera, probably because they didn’t have the budget to render them. For instance when Prince Charming stages an ineffectual attack against the castle, we don’t actually see it happen. Instead we watch one of the movie’s cute helper characters sitting in tree using his celebrity voice to describe what happens. Sorry, that’s just not as good.
Happily N’Ever After has one or two cute ideas, but not the wit or the will to do anything with them. It’s not the kind of bad that’ll make you angry, it’s just incredibly boring. Watching it is an exercise in tedium, a terrible time waster. If you take your kids to see it, bring one of those clip-on reading lights and a book. That’s the best way to get through it.