Shrek Meets The Princess Bride

 

Ella Enchanted (2004) Review 5
Director:Tommy O’Haver,
Starring:Anne Hathaway, Hugh Dancy, Vivica A. Fox, Minnie Driver, Cary Elwes, and Eric Idle
Length:95 minutes
Rated:PG

 

Ella is the obedient one. It was her gift as a child but as a teenager, it is more of a curse.

”Ella Enchanted” is a charming little family film. Had the story focused more on friendship and less on ending with an action finale, this could have been a very special family night at the movies. This is a movie that starts by introducing us to characters with substance and then ignoring them in favor of characters that will provide comic relief and thrills and chills. But for its concession to conceit and formula “Ella” more than fills the live-action family film void with a PG rating and few dull moments. This is a movie that kids will enjoy with their parents.

The story is set in a fantasy land torn from the pages of children’s fairy tales. When Ella (Anne Hathaway) is born she is visited by the wacky Fairy Lucinda (Vivica A. Fox) who without much thought gives her the gift of obedience. Of course, Fairy Lucinda thinks that this is a very splendid gift and when Ella is a baby, her mother certainly couldn’t agree more. But her mother knew that the gift was not a good quality to possess and encourages Ella to think for herself. Ella’s mother and the house fairy Mandy (Minnie Driver) decide to keep the existence of the gift a secret even from the girl’s father.

On her deathbed, Ella’s mother tells her that she mustn’t ever reveal the gift to anyone and that if she looks inside herself, she will discover a way to overcome the requirement that she obey against her will. Following her mother’s death, Ella’s father, Sir Peter (Patrick Bergin) takes a wife whose two daughters are spoiled brats (think “Cinderella”). While attending a new medieval mall opening with her best friend Areida (“Bend It Like Beckam’s” Parminder K. Nagra), Ella protests the appearance of the next king, Prince Charmont (Hugh Dancy). After a crazy twist of events Charmont meets Ella and is intrigued by her free spirit and her lack of interest in him. You see, Prince Charmont is the land’s most eligible bachelor and even has a fan club of screaming teen girls who refer to the hunk only as “Char.”

While romantic sparks fly, evil forces are at work. Char’s uncle has been running the country while Char has been away preparing to take over the throne. The uncle, Prince Regent Edgar (Cary Elwes), has established a rather unpleasant tyranny that has enslaved the giants and forced all elves to sing and dance performing upon request. Char is completely blind to this until being enlightened by Ella who proves to be a threat to Edgar and his plans to be rid of Char leaving the throne to him to occupy.

Based on the story so far you know what to expect. Ella must team up with Char and free the county and remove Edgar from a position of power. It’s just that every time Ella has a chance to achieve these goals, the gift of obedience gets in the way. Her secret is discovered by her step-sisters who are green with envy over her new relationship with Char. Obedience is just what every good tyrant needs in his subjects and Edgar plots to use her gift to his advantage.

”Ella Enchanted” is a tidy adventure yarn with political intrigue and actions sequences (particularly with ninjas and ogres, yeah, I said ninjas). What I found most uninteresting about the film were the soft action sequences that featured “Matrix” like special effects and caused one interesting character to be left completely out of much of the film.

And that interesting character is Areida played humbly Parminder K. Nagra. After the step-sisters arrive and discover the secret, Ella is ordered never to see Areida again which effectively cuts the character out of the picture. This is odd because Nagra (who has a reoccurring role on television’s ER) could have been helpful in giving the story more depth and eliminating the need for the big action ending. I would have been happy with the bonds of friendship and safety causing Ella to snare her Prince and lose her gift. Instead, we get medieval ninjas and a couple of albeit rousing musical numbers complete with a “Grease” like ending.

Actress Anne Hathaway is a delicate beauty whose sincere smile sells the character of Ella as an innocent girl who is determined to one day be rid of the requirement to obey. Hathaway is the kind of young female actor whose fresh looks make her genuine on the screen. As Ella, she even gets to sing a few songs which she does well. There is one very good scene where she sings from a table in a giant’s home and tries her hand at dancing.

Vivica A. Fox and Minnie Driver are delightful as nutty fairies. Hugh Dancy makes a good prince. Dancy who will later this year play Galahag in the upcoming Antoine Fuqua film “King Arthur” is bound to be compared to Heath Ledger, and young girls will be quick to crush on him. Monty Python’s Eric Idle does a cute job narrating the film as well.

Athough I wish they had given us more of the friendship between Areida and Ella and avoided the typical action trappings to bring the film to a close, I had a good time, and regardless of your age, you ought to have fun at “Ella Enchanted” also.