2004 - PG - 95 Mins.
|Director: Tommy O'Haver
|Producer: Jane Startz
|Written By: Kirsten Smith, Laurie Craig, Gail Carson Levine, Karen McCullah Lutz
|Starring: Anne Hathaway, Hugh Dancy, Cary Elwes, Minnie Driver, Vivica A. Fox
|Review by: Joe Rickey
An entirely quirky family-oriented fantasy in the vein of ‘Cinderella’ and ‘The Princess Bride,’ ‘Ella Enchanted’ is much worse than could be expected from what was an excessively low-key marketing campaign by Miramax, strangely releasing a family film that one would think their more well-known (For this type of film, especially) brethren, Disney would handle. The film suffers from a mostly witless script that resorts to obvious play on words and bathroom humor far too often in its story of a princess who travels far and wide to remove a spell that has been cast upon her that forces her to do whatever she is told. The film also tries to get comedic mileage from various strange sights such as a group of giants drinking together. The film isn’t helped by a lackadaisical lead performance by Anne Hathaway (‘The Princess Diaries’), who, if she isn’t careful, will be playing the same character for the rest of her career. It seems she doesn’t mind at the moment, as she will be seen reprising her role in ‘The Princess Diaries 2’ down the road.
What did I get myself into?
The reasons why ‘Ella Enchanted’ fails in its attempt at reinventing the fantasy genre and adapting a beloved children’s book are rather numerous. For one, it may exist in a fantasy world, but ‘Ella Enchanted’ is patently absurd in both structure and the actions of its characters. I don’t want to spoil anything, but some of the decisions made in this film lack anything resembling common sense. The film also fails in its shameful attempt to integrate various characters who have a 21st century sensibility yet exist in a medieval world of knights and other staples of such a film. The characters try often (Far too often is more like it) to be funny in a “cute” way that just comes across as annoying and increasingly dull and uninspired.
Speaking of characters, they range from humans of all classes to talking serpents, elves, and ogres. While one can’t dismiss the creativity behind such a variety of beings, the absolutely horrid special effects on display effectively undermine what good the characters could have brought to the film. The effects look like something straight out of a film like the aforementioned ‘Princess Bride’ or another fantasy film, ‘Willow’ or ‘Never-ending Story.’ They don’t look anything like what you’d expect for a film released in 2004. Miramax obviously skimped greatly on the budget for this film and it shows.
The film also sells itself and the source material, an award-winning piece of literature, short by frequently resorting to the sort of juvenile humor only especially young kids could find funny, such as the sight of a person getting knocked to the ground by a loud fart. Groan, how pathetic and desperate the filmmakers must have been to include such a scene lacking intellect, even when taking into account the film’s target audience.
‘Ella Enchanted’ is a film to avoid at all costs. It is poorly directed and acted, features some of the worst special effects for a studio film in this day and age, and it tells a story most people could no doubt write themselves it’s so predictable.