Not your typical Cinderella story...
What do you get when you mix a bit of fairy tale-Cinderella world with some Shrek, throw in some Princess Bride, a little bit of Disney's Robin Hood (see Hester the snake), along with a little singing, and some random modern-day references thrown in for good measure? You get Ella Enchanted, Miramax's newest gem of a film, narrated by Eric Idle and starring the lovely Anne Hathaway and the dreamy Hugh Dancy.
Ella of Frell (Anne Hathaway) has a gift. Er, I mean, a curse. A gift, a curse, it all depends on how you look at it: no matter what you tell Ella to do, she must obey. A rather capricious fairy named Lucinda (Vivica A. Fox) gave baby Ella the "gift of obedience": anything spoken to Ella as a command, she must automatically do. Fast forward a few years: Ella is now a young lady, and no one except her aunt Mandy (Minnie Driver) knows about this gift/curse. Not even her best friend and fellow civil rights activist Arieda (played by "Bend It Like Beckham's" Parminder K. Nagra) is aware of her "problem." When her father brings home a wicked new stepmother (Joanna Lumley) and two evil stepsisters, Hattie (Lucy Punch) and Olive (Jennifer Higham), Ella must deal with their demanding ways, hopefully without giving away her secret!
Her stepsister Hattie is the very obsessive and very active president of the Prince Charmont fan club! She and her friends go absolutely ga-ga, every time they even think of the hunky prince (much less when they see him). Prince "Char" (Hugh Dancy) as they lovingly call him, is the heir apparent to the throne currently held for him by his evil uncle Edgar (Cary Elwes). The coronation day coming soon, and the kingdom in a bit of upheavel due to the heavy handed rule of Edgar, ogres, giants, and elves alike are all ready for a change! But will everyone accept Prince Charmont as their new king?
One magical day when Ella and Prince Charmont cross paths, it is love at first sight for Prince Char. But the feisty and proud Ella is not so quick to fall for the prince; she is sure he is as unfeeling and uncaring as his uncle is. And since Ella actively fights for ogres' rights, along with any other magical creature in her kingdom (giants, elves, etc.), she wants nothing to do with the handsome Char. But when their paths keep crossing again and again...what's a girl to do!?!
And so Ella of Frell sets out to find her fairy godmother Lucinda, to ask her to take back her "gift" of obedience, armed with Mandy's boyfriend book named Benny (who can picture anyone, anywhere) and elf pal Slannen, they encounter much along the way (including Prince Char!). They reach the land of the giants only to discover that Lucinda has already left, and Ella is forced by her obedience gift to stay and sing for the giants (her rendition of "Someone to Love," is entertaining and very well done!). But when Ella is finally commanded to do something that tests her very will...can she find Lucinda in time? Will she end up doing something she will forever regret?
Content: This film had very little objectionable content: there were a few general references that would be above most children's heads, very little language (a few words), and only some mild violence. Given a PG rating: "For some crude language and violence." A young girl (with some help) defeats ogres and fights various magical creatures, giants are shown slaving in a field, someone is "poisoned," and a giant falls in love with an elf.
A high energy family-friendly film that reminds you again, why every girl waits for her prince and wishes for that happily ever after (but has some serious fun in the process!). The modern day references did not detract from the story at all, but added a bit of fun and light-hearted teasing to an entertaining movie. I laughed and laughed at the sometimes silly and sometimes serious jokes that poked fun at various modern day places and things. One particular moment that caused a huge laugh: Ella and Arieda are leaving a building and travel down a "medieval escalator" (a wooden set of moving stairs, with a giant wheel turned by servants). From "Medieval Teen" magazine and trips to "Ye Olde Shopping Mall, to an elf who wants to be a lawyer and giants who love to sing, from the "VI Seasons" hotel and "Frell Community College," this energetic and colorful film will leave you laughing, and feeling light and free.
There are two things that colored my perception of "Ella Enchanted." The first is that I just saw "A Cinderella Story" a couple of weeks ago, and since that was the worst movie made on the Cinderella theme in the history of the world anything else was going to look a lot better in comparison. But then director Tommy O'Haver has the advantage of being able to mine the gold from Gail Carson Levine's beloved children's novel, which provides enough creative sparks to make this movie something different. If you are going to tell the Cinderella story over again then you need to have a twist that justifies the effort, and "Ella Enchanted" has a couple of those.
Second, this really is a movie aimed at kids. I say this because the key twist in this story is that when Ella is born a rather second rate fairy named Lucinda (Vivica A. Fox) gives her the gift of obedience. This means that every time somebody tells Ella to do something, she has to do it. Now, for kids, younger kids, this is a truly nightmare scenario. Parents and other adults are always telling you to do something: what if they could MAKE you do whatever they wanted? Endless chores, homework, and probably music lessons would be your fate, which is essentially what happens to Ella when she grows up to be Anne Hathaway.
Hathaway is the star of this film and what promise she showed in "The Princess Dairies" is fulfilled her as she plays Ella as more of a civil rights advocate than a would be fairy princess. This is because in the other fun twist the regent, Prince Edgar (Carl Elwes, playing for the other side this time having done the hero bit in "The Princess Bride"), has ordered all the elves, ogres, giants and other non-humans to live in the forest, at least when they are not serving as slave labor in behalf of the kingdom. Ella knows this is wrong and while every other eligible maiden in the land is throwing themselves at the feet of Prince Charmont (Hugh Dancy), Ella is more interested in giving the heir a piece of her mind on the eve of his coronation.
Since this is a take off of a sort on Cinderella we have to have the wicked step mother (Joanna Lumley) and her daughters, the mean one, Hattie (Lucy Punch), and the stupid one, Olive (Jennifer Higham). One of the most problematic elements in the story is where the good and kindly father (Patrick Bergin) marries the wrong woman. When the fairy tale was first told it was commonplace for widows and widowers to marry (it worked well for young Abraham Lincoln), but now adays the logic of such marriages is a hit and miss proposition: we buy it in "Ever After" and we laugh at it in "A Cinderella Story." At least Ella's dad is not dead but simply off on business while his new wife and step-daughters treat Ella like she was a maid who gets dirty from the cinders in the fireplace.
I saw this 2004 film is aimed at kids because the injustices that Hattie heaps on Ella are going to drive the young ones right through the roof. I am old enough to know that things will work out for Ella in the end and I suspect most kids will know that too, but I am also old enough to want Hattie to get more of a comeuppance than she does in this film (or its alternative ending). But then I also know why the original Cinderella wore glass slippers (I cannot explain it because children might read this review; if you ever read the original story of "The Little Mermaid" then you know that most of the classic fairy tales talk a walk on the dark side).
There are lots of creative little touches that help this film along. Mandy (Minnie Driver), the inept house fairy who tries to look after Ella, has a boyfriend named Benny (Jimi Mistry), who is trapped in a book. Open the book and Benny can show you where somebody is and what they are doing, which becomes helpful as Ella tries to find Lucinda to take back her gift and help save the day at the end of the film. What I really liked is how the enchantment is broken, which worked on at least two significant levels, which is two more than you usually get in a Hollywood film.
The only reason "Ella Enchanted" is not a truly superb film is because we have seen bits and pieces of this fractured fairy tale approach in things like "Into the Woods" and "Shrek." I would also toss out a working hypothesis that there are only so many variations on the Cinderella theme that you are willing to admit to the first level. For me that would be "Pretty Woman" and "Ever After" (having Hector Elizondo or Leonardo Da Vinci in the fairy godmother role appeals to me), but for young kids they might fall in love with "Ella Enchanted" in the same way.
Anne Hathaway makes that easy to do, especially when her character is forced to belt out a cover of Queen's "Somebody to Love." She has those big eyes and that bright smile and spins enough magic in this movie to make up for a by-the-numbers wasted sequel like "The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement." Obviously she needs to break out of the "princess" mode and her next film, "Havoc," should provide that: she plays a wealthy L.A. teen who imitates the gangsta lifestyle of hip hop culture with her friends and then encounters a gang of real Latino drug dealers in the big bad city. Yep, that should break Hathaway out of the princess rut.
on April 20, 2004
This movie is seriously, a great movie. From the very beginning we are sucked into this world of magic and fantasy and we stay there until the end when the narrator tells us we have to go back to the real world.
We join Ella on a magical journey to find her godmother to remove a spell that was cast on her as a baby. As she travels across the country she meets elves, ogres, giants, and the handsome prince (in leather pants).
Hathaway makes Ella real and gives her emotion, crucial to make this more than just a fairy tale. She makes Ella someone we can all relate to by giving her depth. Her best acting comes when the Evil Uncle discovers her curse and when she has to stab Char (in the leather pants). It was beautifully shot.
Of course this movie is more humor than seriousness. And the humor is excellent. For most of the movie the entire theater was laughing at the jokes, which is a good thing for a comedy.
Of course I can't end a review for this movie without mentioning the singing. Hathaway sings a song at the giant wedding, she is excellent. When I first found out Anne was going to sing in this movie I was nervous for her. But she does an excellent job. As does everyone else (including Char in the leather pants) when the whole cast sings at the end.
Go, go see this movie. And Anne Hathaway. And the prince. In leather pants.
on September 23, 2011
The flavoring of this movie is akin to "The Princess Bride" and the "Shrek" films. It has many of the fairytale aspects you would want: a young woman who is under a spell, a prince, an evil king, and fairy tale creatures such as dwarves and fairies. Like "The Princess Bride" and the "Shrek" films, "Ella Enchanted" sort of makes fun of the concept of the fairytale. When Prince Charmont meets no-nonsense Ella and tells her, "You are the first girl I've met who hasn't swooned at the sight of me," she replies with, "Well, then maybe I've done you some good."
Everyone will love Anne Hathaway's Ella character, who is not your typical fairytale woman. She's strong, knows what she wants, and knows how to get it. You immediately want to root for her, and long for her horrible stepmother and two stepsisters to have a taste of their own medicine.
I wasn't sure if I'd like this movie or not, but I found it great fun to follow along as Ella searches for the fairy who gave her a gift that Ella desperately wants the fairy to take back.
There's a reason that every year seems to bring at least one new adaptation of the Cinderella story - it is, indeed, an enchanting story that speaks to the heart. Who doesn't love Cinderella? I oftentimes find myself pulling for the bad guys in films, but who in the world could ever like that evil step-mother or her awful daughters? Of course, Ella Enchanted isn't your traditional fairy tale, even though all of the important elements are there - the fairy godmother, the prince, etc. Ella is not reduced to slavery by her step-mother, and she doesn't have any contact with cinders, but she does find herself effectively controlled by one of her awful new step-sisters. Anyone who has read Terry Pratchett or watched Shrek 2 knows that fairy godmothers do more harm than good, and the one in this movie (played by Vivica A. Fox) proves the point. Lucinda's gift to the baby Ella is obedience. You may think you've gotten some rotten gifts before, but the gift of obedience is the worst of the worst. Ella grows up with a strong mind and a beautiful heart, but she is helpless to refuse any request made of her. You can just imagine the kind of havoc one could wreak if one found out Ella's secret. Forbidden to tell anyone about her curse of a blessing, Ella eventually decides that she must seek out her godmother and beg her to take the gift back.
Ella sets out on her long journey in the days preceding the coronation of Prince Char (Hugh Dancy). Char is pretty much the Elvis of the realm, with young ladies in waiting breaking out into hysterics whenever he appears and, more often than not, chasing him down like hounds after a fox. He first meets Ella during one such chase, and he is immediately taken by this young lady who doesn't swoon in his presence; in fact, Ella has a thing or two to say to the young prince because she is opposed to his uncle's royal policies that discriminate against ogres, elves, and giants. She knows what it is like to have to do something against your wishes, and that makes her most forthright in her political statements. As fate would have it, the two meet again, love blossoms, and the prince gets to see firsthand the unfortunate lives his non-human subjects have been forced into living. Eventually, they arrive at the castle, and fate's dark side decides to show up and torture the innocent Ella once again. The prospects go far beyond the ruin of her love life, however; they threaten the integrity and welfare of the entire kingdom.
Ella Enchanted is a somewhat unusual film. I daresay it's the only place you'll ever find "Cinderella" belting out a saucy version of Queen's Somebody to Love, for instance. It's a little jarring to hear Strange Magic as the film opens, but you quickly grow to love the entire soundtrack (especially if you're an adult - most kids won't recognize some of the classic tunes included here). I can't say the special effects are all that great, especially the ones featuring giants, but it is the story, not the special effects, which matter in this particular case, and Ella Enchanted really delivers story-wise. With its mix of humor and drama, it should appeal to most any viewer - and you can't help but be won over by the beauty and talent of Anne Hathaway in the lead role.
Ella Enchanted succeeds admirably in delivering a new twist on a universally known story of good vs. evil. I wouldn't rank it up there with Ever After, but it's definitely one of the better Cinderella adaptations I've seen.
on April 20, 2004
My "pilot test" of this movie included myself (the mom), my 10-year-old son, and my 5-year-old daughter. My daughter and I truly enjoyed the blend of old-style fairy-tale romance and grrlpower: Ella, a spunky orphan under the thrall of a spell that forces her to obey every command she is given, falls for and wins her handsome prince but does so by realizing her own abilities.
Even the costumes and sets seem to blend fairy tale romance and a kind of 'pop' culture in a campy, don't-care-if-it's-authentic-so-long-as-it's-fun kind of way. The costumes look vaguely medieval until, say, Ella's full-length gown transforms into a mod kicky skirt and the whole crowd starts singing and dancing something that vaguely resembles the Electric Slide.
The whole thing was met with stern disapproval by my son, however, who found the whole thing far too focused on the romance between Ella and Prince Charmont for his tastes. "Too Much Kissing," he complained.
For the record, "too much" kissing means two kisses!
If you are a huge fan of the book, be prepared to suffer differences between the plot in the book vs. the movie. And if you're a boy, beg off.
This is one enchanting film. Sometimes when movies or books borrow little bits and pieces from other movies or books, the result is an offending plagiarism. In this case, however, the result is a marvelously captivating story. Some of the bits and pieces that you'll find in here are: Cinderella, Shrek, The Princess Bride, Hamlet, Macbeth, and maybe even a touch of Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring, with the warm comfort of the countryside (although this time people are living in houses, of course, and not Hobbit holes).
When Ella is born, an extremely untalented fairy with a penchant for drunken flying bestows her with a "gift", a gift of obedience. Whatever someone tells her, she is bound by the spell Lucinda placed upon her. Lucinda, in her arrogance, never stopped to think about the consequences of such a gift, and half the fun of the film is watching Ella perform her mean stepsisters, or even Cary Elwes character, Sir Regal, when he instructs her to "shake her booty".
The cast is absolutely extraordinary, and I love that Cary Elwes is playing a dark haired wicked regent, when his role in The Princess Bride was that of a blond beauty who saved the princess and the kingdom from another wicked, dark haired ruler. (It's interesting to note that when Elwes appeared in The Princess Bride he was far more charming and attractive than Hugh Dancy, but that's really immaterial.) Eric Idle as the narrator, speaking always in an entertaining rhyme, is delightful, but the character that shines above all is Anne Hathaway, a young woman of breathtaking beauty. If ever there was a princess (and she's played a princess three times now!) she's it. She has all of the innocence, all of assumed common sense necessary for the role.
The movies greatest strengths lie in humor. From a book that's really Ella's house fairy's boyfriend (Ella's house fairy isn't remarkably gifted, as she turned him into that book), to comments like, "Stop licking the foyer!" when a group of crazed girls start licking the castle floor because Prince Char walked on it, it's humor that's complete, not relying on one-trick ponies.
This is a warm and wonderful family film, and even if it did depart a bit from the book to try and look a bit like Shrek, that's perfectly fine and entirely forgivable.
on August 24, 2004
Anne Hatheway stars as Ella of Frell and she's never been more enchanting! This movie is like Shrek meets The Princess Bride meets Cinderella. It's so funny and sweet-- just an all around great time! And it's about ten times better than those screwy teen comedies that have no depth or range. I'm shocked this movie did poorly at the boxoffice because it deserved everyone's attention!
Every child is given a gift at birth. Ella is given the gift of obedience by a haphazard fairy named Lucinda (Vivica A. Fox), who says that Ella will now be the perfect child. Ella, however, grows up strong of mind, and while she can't figure out how to defeat her "gift," her mind is set on just that! Along her amazing journey, she meets a handsome prince (the wonderful Hugh Dancy), befriends an elf determined to become a lawyer, has a run in with giants, and must deal with her tormenting stepsisters, who have figured out Ella's secret and use it against her.
Marvelous job by Anne Hatheway, wonderful and fun-filled script by Laurie Craig, and a totally fun imaginary world that you'll get completely swept away in! This is a true family movie that will captivate your heart!
on April 14, 2004
Yes, I saw the movie last night. True; I do admit that it is not the same as the book, and perhaps if you are an "Ella Enchanted" purist - I respect your views and all - you might not like the movie very much.
I've also read the book, and it follows - for the most part - the same storyline. So, even though I "knew" what was going to happen, I was still bitting my nails with the suspense of it all. Which was a good thing. It holds the same spirit of "Ella Enchanted," which is sort of "anti-Grimm's Brothers" and allowing the story's leading lady to be strong, couragous, and, occasionally, rebellious.
The leading lady - Anne Hathaway - was cute and did her role very well, and they had a pretty good leading man with Hugh Dancy. The giants and elves where sort of hard to believe, but Ella's singing and dancing was great. The evil King Edward was a great villain, and this ellaborated on the part of the book that author mentioned: what if Ella married the prince with her curse and some one made her kill him, or something like that? So, Edward tells Ella when the prince proposes to her, that she stab him with a daggar.
The attack on pop culture and, specifically, male teen idols, was a very nice contemporary twist. The girls in the story were crazy for Prince Char, which parallels how some girls are crazy over, Justin Timberlake, Ashton Kutcher, etc. for example.
On the whole, it was a very enjoyable, feel-good movie. Insprational, as well, that young women shouldn't sit and wait for the "Prince to some day come," but to step out in the world [action packed] on the way - and be their own hero.
Three cheers for the echanting Ella!
on August 7, 2004
In spite of the harsh criticism received for this movie for it's contradiction with the book I personally think it was a neat production judging in terms of cinematic creation. I never heard it being referred to as an adaptation, so why worry about if it ain't broke?
The most eye catching thing right throughout the movie was obviously Anne. Her acting has astonishingly improved since Princess Diaries, Nicholas Nickleby and the rest. Also you get to hear her amazing voice where she performance a beautiful solo and dancing of course ;).. talking about dancing, in the finale just try focusing on Jimi Mistry. you won't stop laughing!
I never pictured Hugh Dancy as prince charming, but you really get a laugh here. The entire film has a very fine blend of colors, you would notice it's very easy to watch and the picture quality is looks great. Even though not in depth, you will be taken into the worlds of both Giants and Elves, a pretty good contrast, and as always the good and the bad.
I do understand that many youngsters would be disappointed to see something quite different from the book, and even though the constantly obedient concept doesn't quite work for elders, credit should be given to a well directed fairy tale. It's a movie after all and it should be watched just like you would watch something new. If you do, it'll definitely put you in the good mood.