‘Ella Enchanted’ is a sweet treat with an all-star cast

    It’s about time another live-action fairy tale film was made for kids, because kids today haven’t got the same array of fantasy movies like “The Princess Bride” and “Legend” that are both intelligent and fanciful. Although “Ella Enchanted” leaves much to be desired, it ultimately succeeds in being a cute and fun movie with likable characters and lively, colorful settings.

    The tale is a simple one, sort of. Ella (Anne Hathaway of “The Princess Diaries” and “Nicholas Nickleby”) is a beautiful maiden who is enchanted (or cursed, either way) with absolute obedience. If anyone makes the slightest command (“Ella, hold your tongue!”) she cannot help but to obey. So our darling heroine must go off and find her fairy godmother (Vivica A. Fox) to take back the gift. Along the way Ella finds true love with the handsome prince (of course), meets an elf with aspirations of becoming a lawyer, and gets rescued from a blue giant with a plumber’s crack.

    So the cinematic journey begins, and what a surprisingly enjoyable one it is, complete with allusions to present-day politics and pop culture and an all-star cast that is undoubtedly having fun making their own rules. Sure, the acting isn’t quite of the award-winning caliber, but that’s not the point with films like this.

    The talented actors play off of one another very well and make what could be a laughable attempt at a film a rather enjoyable one. Cary Elwes returns to the humor fantasy genre to play the Regent Prince Edgar (think Prince Humperdink of Princess Bride, only he sings “Shake Your Booty”) and his regent prince is one sly yet silly evil-doer. Minnie Driver (“Good Will Hunting”, “Return to Me”) plays the defunct house fairy Mandy who is adorable, yet annoyingly bereft of any agency. Not much can be said of our heroine, who is for the most part simply pretty and likable. It is incredibly refreshing, however, to see a fairy tale heroine who is not a demure and simple girl who waits for fortune and happiness to come to her. Instead she is one with spunk, who rejects the prince and who attends the prince’s pre-coronation rally to protest segregation of giants, ogres and elves (“Say no to ogre-cide!”). Hathaway does a decent job of presenting a new female role model who breaks with the convention of female obedience.

    Special commendations must be made to the evil stepmother and stepsisters, however, who succeed in being incredibly disagreeable and comical at the same time. Joanna Lumley (one of the comic geniuses behind “Absolutely Fabulous”) plays the wicked stepmother Dame Olga perfectly. She is vain to the point of near self-destruction and is a lot of fun to watch. Lucy Punch, as the blonde wannabe bombshell stepsister Hattie, is the real gem of the film. Great care was put into the characterization of the clever Hattie, who is the president of the Prince Charmont Fan Club and insanely jealous of his affection for her stepsister, and it is palpable in Punch’s portrayal of her.

    Of course, “Ella Enchanted” cannot quite compare to “The Princess Bride” or even “Shrek”, but it is without a doubt a much needed comic fantasy film appropriate for people of all ages. Sure it’s meant for kids, but most people will appreciate the clever one-liners (“If the gauntlet doesn’t fit, you must acquit!”), the bright and lively settings, and, of course, the great music.

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