Ella Enchanted

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the kingdom of Frell, baby Ella (Anne Hathaway) is given the “gift of obedience” by her fairy godmother, Lucinda (Vivica A. Fox). This turns out to be more of a curse, making Ella do anything she is told to do, no matter how terrible or physically impossible. Some years later, Ella’s mother dies after instructing Ella to tell no one of the curse, not even her father. Eventually Ella’s father (Patrick Bergin), in need of money, remarries a wealthy socialite. His greedy new wife, Dame Olga (Joanna Lumley), and her two spoiled daughters Hattie and Olive (Jennifer Higham) treat Ella poorly. They eventually realize Ella’s obedience to commands, and begin making her life miserable.

Ella stumbles upon Prince Charmont (Hugh Dancy), the handsome heir to the throne, as he’s being pursued by his “fan club” of young women. He finds her lack of deference to him refreshing and after their encounter, sends an invitation to the Coronation Ball to her home, where it is intercepted by her stepmother and stepsisters. Hattie and Olive, who are part of Prince Charmont’s fan club, are overcome with jealousy. Along with their mother, they force Ella to insult and cut ties with her best friend Areida (Parminder Nagra). Ella cannot bear to live under the obedience spell and Hattie’s jealousy a moment longer, so she resolves to find Lucinda, the only one who can remove the spell. Mandy (Minnie Driver), the household fairy and the only other person who knows of the curse, tries to help by lending Ella a magical book that can show people in their current surroundings. The book holds Mandy’s boyfriend Benny (Jimi Mistry), who she had accidentally transformed in an errant spell. During her journey, Ella encounters an elf named Slannen (Aidan McArdle), who wants to be a lawyer instead of an entertainer as the kingdom’s laws now require. Slannen joins Ella on her quest, but they are captured by a group of ogres, who prepare to cook and eat them. They are rescued by Prince Charmont. He then accompanies her to a wedding in the land of giants, where Ella hopes to find Lucinda. Throughout the journey, Ella opens Charmont’s eyes to the cruelty of his uncle’s new laws oppressing elves and giants. Char suggests that Ella should come with him to his palace to visit the Hall of Records and track down Lucinda faster.

At the palace, Charmont’s uncle, Sir Edgar (Cary Elwes), has Ella’s “gift” called to his attention by his talking snake, Heston, voiced by (Steve Coogan), who has been spying on the prince. When Edgar offers Hattie Char’s hand in marriage, Ella’s stepsisters explain that she does everything she is told. Edgar knows that Prince Charmont intends to propose marriage to Ella, and he orders her to stab him to death and not to tell anyone of the plan. Sir Edgar also reveals that he murdered Prince Charmont’s father. To prevent the murder of Char, Ella asks Slannen to tie her to a tree outside the city and to find the giants so they can help. Lucinda now appears before Ella, who asks her to undo the “gift” of obedience. Offended by the request, Lucinda refuses, saying that if Ella no longer wants the spell, she must remove it herself. She unties Ella from the tree and gives her a fancy dress and tells her to attend the ball. When Ella gets to the ball, Charmont almost immediately takes her to the Hall of Mirrors and asks her to marry him. Ella is about to stab him with the dagger Edgar provided, when she realizes how to free herself from the curse: looking into a mirror, she orders herself to no longer be obedient. Charmont sees the dagger drop from her hand and realizes she tried to kill him. Edgar is watching the entire scene behind a two-way mirror, and before Ella can explain, Edgar orders the guards to lock her up and have her executed in a few days.

Meanwhile, Slannen gets the giants, and the ogres come to sneak into the castle to rescue Ella and find out that Sir Edgar is poisoning the crown that Char will receive during the ceremony. Just before Charmont puts it on, Ella and her allies interrupt. Edgar and Heston call for the knights and Red Guards, and a battle ensues. Ella explains everything to Charmont while fighting alongside him. When Sir Edgar’s forces lose the battle, Heston tries to bite Char, but is stopped by Ella. Caught trying to killing the prince, Edgar admits to killing the King to the assembled crowd. Then, carried away by his own rhetoric, he puts it dramatically on his own head, and promptly collapses from the poison, although he survives.

Char and Ella kiss; her stepsisters arrive and order her to stop kissing, and she is delighted to refuse. Ella then walks up to Hattie and takes her mother’s necklace back from her (Hattie had forced Ella to give it to her near the beginning of the movie). Char once again asks Ella to marry him, and she agrees. The movie ends with their wedding and a musical number (Elton John’s “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart).

REVIEW:

There are so many twists, turns, and mutations on the tale of Cinderella out there today that it is hard to remember some of the better ones. Ella Enchanted is one of these versions that has fallen by the wayside, partly because Anne Hathaway’s career skyrocketed shortly after this, if I’m not mistaken.

What is this about?

Burdened at birth with the “gift” of obedience by a flighty fairy godmother, Ella searches for a way to lift the curse that prevents her from pursuing her dreams — and her true love, Prince Charmont.

What did I like?

Role model. I was talking to someone about this film the other day and the topic of role models came up. In this day and age when the females that little girls see the most are anything but good role models (contrary to their belief), it is a nice break from the norm to get a strong Cinderella-type character. Personally, I prefer the original, but I’m a purist. That being said, Ella of Frel is a good example for young girls.

Cast. In my opinion, this is one of the more attractive casts that I’ve seen in quite some time. With the exception of the step sisters, who are complete dogs no matter what incarnation they’re in and the ogres, there isn’t one person that isn’t at least marginally attractive, in my opinion. For goodness sakes, Heidi Klum appears as one of the giants! Now, what does this mean for the film, since we can almost all be sure that people in this era didn’t look like they just walked out of a Hollywood salon? Well, the film does seem to be a bit of a satire on the fairy tale, so I’m sure the cast’s looks have something to do with that, as well.

Pop culture. Many people seem to be torn on the modern touches here and there, such as the songs, a wooden escalator, a university, complete with protests, fan clubs, etc. Hey, it worked in A Knight’s Tale, and before that, on The Flintstones, so why can’t it work here in a film that isn’t trying to take itself too seriously? I don’t see what the big deal is. Personally, I think we could have done with a touch more here and there, but not too much, lest we meander into territory defecated upon by the last couple of Shrek films.

What didn’t I like?

Smart. Ella is a smart, independent young woman, so it seems to be that by time she’s this age, she would have figured out a way around the curse or maybe even learned a few spells from Mandy, who I’m not really sure why she’s still there at this time. I just don’t get why she had to go on a trek across the countryside to find Lucinda, other than to fill out the film.

Spotlight. You might not realize it, but there are other characters in this film besides Ella, the Prince, Sir Edgar, and Slannen. Two of the biggest injustices are Mandy, played by Minnie Driver who really could be a throwaway character, if you think about it and Ella’s best friend, Areida. I would have loved to have seen more of these two, especially Areida, but instead, we get to see Vivica A. Fox in all her stereotypical, sassy black female glory. I am not a fan of her, let me tell you! Don’t even get me started on how the focus was only on one of the step sisters. Yes, that’s how it is in every incarnation, but this poor girl may as well have not even been there!

Deviation. I just learned that this is based on a book. One of these days, I may have to go check that out. In the meantime, I can’t really comment on how far from the source material but I do know that it doesn’t really resemble the book. As a I said earlier, I’m a purist, but I understand that certain allowances must be made. However, changing the whole story is something that I just can’t deal with.

Ella Enchanted is the first film where I believe we actually were able to see that Anne Hathaway had some real acting chops to go with those model looks of hers. If you’re in the mood for a nice family film that will keep you and your kids entertained, then I highly recommend this one. No, it isn’t perfect, but it sure is fun to watch!

4 out of 5 stars

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