As a kid, I attended a summer day camp at a church, and in addition to games both physical and electronic, there were plenty of movies to watch as well. One day, I was given the choice to join two groups; I could either go with the majority of boys and watch the classic that is The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie or I could side with the girls for some new film called Ella Enchanted. I decided to break out of the box and try something different, even if it did have that girl from The Princess Diaries. I was pleasantly surprised to find it was not just a girly fairy tale but a creative and enjoyable adventure perhaps most akin to Rob Reiner’s beloved The Princess Bride. In a world of elves that sing and ogres with familiarly deep voices, Ella Enchanted is not as subversive as the likes of Shrek, but it’s humorously aware of its own fairy tale conventions, such as Eric Idle’s rhyming narration.
Anne Hathaway was still relatively unknown when she played the spunky Ella of Frell, and though the film was less than a hit, it and The Princess Diaries films strengthened her appeal and gave her more exposure for future roles. Hugh Dancy is appropriately dreamy as Prince Char, one of the only recent movie princes to be both genuinely heroic and likable (compared with Shrek’s Prince Charming, Enchanted’s Prince Edward, and Frozen’s Prince Hans). Having previously starred with Hathaway in Studio Ghibli’s The Cat Returns, Cary Elwes gets in touch with his villainous side as evil Uncle Edgar, and does so with such wicked glee as to make the farmboy-formerly-known-as-Westley almost unrecognizable. The rest of the cast is uniformly funny, including Minnie Driver, Vivica A. Fox, and Aidan McArdle as the grouchy Slannen, who dreams of becoming a lawyer.
Much of the humor derives from Shrek-y anachronisms, such as a fairy’s FWI (Flying While Intoxicated), as well as classic songs that seemingly come out of nowhere. Long before Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables, Anne Hathaway proved her singing chops with her hilarious rendition of Queen’s “Somebody to Love.” The final song and dance number is also a hoot and ends the whole film on a high note.
While the whole idea of obedience being a curse has potential for being a less-than-ideal lesson for kids, Ella herself is a good role model, showing concern for the underprivileged of the kingdom and not seeking freedom from the curse for any particularly selfish or rebellious reason. Despite a bit of crude humor, Ella Enchanted is an appealing, kid-friendly fantasy that made me glad that I picked the “girly” choice. (P.S. It’s not all that girly.)
Best line: (Benny, who was accidentally turned into a book by his fairy girlfriend) “I would have left her ages ago, except I love her so darn much. Plus, I have no legs.”Artistry: 5 Characters/Actors: 8 Entertainment: 9 Visual Effects: 7 Originality: 8 Watchability: 10 TOTAL: 47 out of 60
Next: #157 – Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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