Anne Hathaway, Hugh Dancy, Cary Elwes, Vivica A. Fox, Minnie Driver, Parminder K. Nagra
by Darisa Diaz
Ella Enchanted is a fairy tale about an unfortunate girl who is cursed
with “the gift” of obedience by a fairy godmother (Vivica A. Fox)
with a ‘tude. Ella of Frell has no choice but to do literally do what
she is told. Ella’s tale is also a cinder-Ella storyline with a final
showdown at a ball. Magical creatures, wicked stepsisters, and a charming prince
are scattered in-between.
I was very excited to see Ella Enchanted for many reasons. One of
which was that Anne Hathaway, who I adored in The
Princess Diaries, was in the leading role. Like The
Princess Diaries, Ella Enchanted, the film, is based on a
popular children’s novel. However, in this case, the trailers are deceiving
and make the film seem much funnier than it actually was. I found myself watching
Ella Enchanted attentively but becoming increasingly disenchanted.
Ella Enchanted tries very hard to be a “different kind”
of retelling as was the case in the Cinderella story, Ever
After. It’s a spunky tale that follows a lovely, sympathetic
heroine. Ella easily wins the hearts of the audience because of her genuine
generosity and all around goodness.
But interest in Ella steadily declines as the film desperately attempts to
be humorous by throwing around a couple of “modern” details. There
are wooden escalators and classified ads in the paper for abacus programmers
The stepsisters salivate over princely pin-up posters and a screaming entourage
stalks and fawns over Prince Charmand, Ella Enchanted’s version
of Prince William. When Prince Charmand accuses Ella of reading Medieval Teen
magazine, all the audience can do is look away and groan.
Packaged and sold as a comedy, most of the jokes in Ella Enchanted
repeatedly fall flat. It spends so much time focusing on cheeky little jests
that it destroys the comedic momentum it is fighting so hard to establish. When
the film opened with an annoying rhyming narrator who by no means rivaled Dr.
Seuss, I braced myself.
Hathaway is captivating early on in the film. She is energetic and charming.
She frequently throws us for a loop with her winning smile. She is especially
wonderful when campaigning passionately against the oppression of ogres, elves
and giants. We are rightfully horrified when poor Ella is compelled to fulfill
the wretched whims of evildoers.
Evildoers like Cary Elwes. Yes, Cary Elwes in a campy and truly horrible turn
as villainous Uncle Regent Edgar, a man desperate to maintain control of the
throne. I loved Cary Elwes until I saw him in this film. He was outdone by his
lackey, a sneaky, CGI snake named Heston. ‘Nuff said.
The revolving door of brief appearances by various showbiz personalities like
Minnie Driver, Heidi Klum, E.R.'s
Parminder K. Nagra and Fox were reminiscent of a Will
& Grace episode. They are quick, relatively painless and totally
unremarkable. Essentially, they are distracting background fixtures.
But the worst, the complete and utter worst of it were the song and dance numbers.
Completely out of place and mostly disastrous, the first (but not the last)
dance number is almost entertaining. Look out Christina Aguilera! Hathaway belts
out a surprisingly soulful rendition of Queen’s “Somebody to Love”
to a room full of giants. However, the sing-a-long that closes the film is a
travesty that pales in comparison to true musicals like Moulin
All in all, Ella Enchanted is quite disappointing. Fans of the complicated
story found in the book will find it grossly inaccurate. The screenplay is mostly
fluff that does not do the novel justice. Long before the credits rolled, I
found that I was the only person left in the theater. Everyone else had left.
Ella Enchanted was all spunk and little substance though Anne Hathaway gave
it a good old college try.