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54 of 71 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Why Destroy Such a Wonderful Book?, April 19, 2004
You'd think after the success of the "Lord of the Rings" and "Harry Potter" movies, producers and writers would be getting a message loud and clear: that the more loyal a movie is to its original source material, the happier fans will be. As it is, I'm detecting a trend in the reviews written for the big screen version of "Ella Enchanted" - those that have never read the book find it sweet and charming, but those that are fans of Gail Carson Levine's wonderful novel are wondering what went wrong.
Levine's novel is a reworking of the Cinderella story, who comes up with a legitimate reason as to why Cinderella would allow herself to be bullied around so much by her stepfamily. Levine's ingenius idea is that Ella has been placed under a gift/curse by her fairy godmother Lucinda, which forces her to to whatever she's told.
Well, this is about the only plot device that the screen-writers chose to keep, and even then it's twisted into something that's virtually unrecognisable. In the book, Ella's curse has a rather dark side to it - should she fail to obey a command, she is overcome with nausea and pain until she does so. In the movie however, this potent imagery is replaced with little twinkling lights about her head and a little jolt from the actress that implies the curse triggers her like a button would control a robot.
The second component of Levine's story that the screenwriters keep but inexorably twist out of shape is the love story between Ella and Prince Charmont. Here, they instigate not one, but two of the oldest and most cliched "love devices" known to cinematic history - love at first sight, and hate at first sight. For Prince Char, it takes only a glance for him to know that Ella's the girl for him. For Ella, it's the beginning of a prickly relationship that sees her eventually mellow out and fall in love. In the book however, Levine instigates a revolutionary idea in terms of fairytale-falling-in-love: that the two romantic leads could actually become *friends* before they become lovers! Believe it or not, Levine's story has Ella and Char meeting several times before they wed, joking around, exchanging letters, even *talking* and getting to know each others personalities before they declare their love! Unheard of!

And so, with the only two original Levine-ideas in the movie corrupted beyond all recognition, the script-writers turn to other ideas to exploit the beloved book: introducing characters and situations that never existed in Levine's story. So we have a regent-uncle that wants to kill his nephew before his coronation (why not do this whilst Char was a child?), an irritating elf that wants to be a lawyer, and a talking holographic book. The original characters are brought to lackluster life by Parminder K. Nagra as a 30+ year old Arieda, Minnie Driver as an underused Mandy, Joanna Lumley as Olga, and Vivica A. Fox as a black Lucinda (there is such a thing as taking political correctness too far).
Hugh Dancy and Anne Hathaway (who possibly has the world's largest smile) are amiable enough leads, but pale in comparison to Levine's characterisations. For Ella in particular, whose one passion in life was to remove the hated curse from her, it was her journey of self discovery that made up most of the book - the love story was a sub-plot. Although Char was a fundamental part of her finally destroying the curse, it was always clear that rather than finding romance, Ella finds *herself*. In the movie however, the love story (and a stupid pro-active protesting message) is Ella's motivation, not her reward.

Often the movie seems to be blantantly (and painfully) ripping off the popularity of "Shrek" and "The Princess Bride", as well as a little dose of "A Knight's Tale" with the inclusion of characters bursting into modern songs. It didn't work completely in "A Knight's Tale", but at least they had the advantage of being original.

The visuals come across as tacky and garish, (why not the ornate but realistic look of "Ever After?") and don't even get me started on the cheesy bluescreen special effects. The modernised elements are painful to behold - "Ye Olde Shopping Mall"?! and the script is ripe with cringe-worthy phrases such as "We've got a coronation to crash!", "You're not like other girls," and "Cool!" Also, let it be known to movie-makers everywhere that spoofs of the "Matrix" fights have been done to death. It's just not funny anymore. I promise.
In any adapted movie, at least *some* respect should be given for the source material. I suggest skipping the movie theatre, and going to the library.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 17, 2013 5:13:51 AM PST
We should re-make the movie to follow the actual story, thanks for your review!

Posted on May 12, 2014 7:32:00 AM PDT
Eric Edwards says:
Well LOTR was haked and slashed and much of the story was sacrificed inorder to bring action to the table.
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