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6/1/2004 -- With the 48 Hour Film Project coming to New York City this month, we're offering one woman's personal experience with the project during last year's contest in Washington, D.C. Read the Diary from the 48-Hour Film Project.

5/31/2004 -- We offer up our look at the comic book sequel, X2: X-Men United, which proves that sequels can indeed be better than their predecessors.

5/28/2004 -- The Earth gets a lot cooler — and the cheesy dialogue a lot thicker — in Roland Emmerich's latest disaster epic, The Day After Tomorrow.

5/25/2004 -- After two days of technical problems that were out of our control, we're back with two new DVD reviews: the simple yet beautiful Never Cry Wolf, and the terrible and sloppy, Windtalkers.

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FILM REVIEW
Movie Rating:
star
Ella Enchanted
Star(s): Anne Hathaway, Hugh Dancy, Cary Elwes, Vivica A. Fox, Minnie Driver, Parminder K. Nagra
Director: Tommy O’Hare
Writer(s): Laurie Craig
Company: Miramax

Ella Enchanted Image 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 Rouge!

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.

Darisa Diaz is a native New Yorker with an obsession for film who will watch anything (bad or good) for the sheer thrill of being entertained. She currently works as a freelancer writer and juggles various "admin" jobs to pay the bills. She has also labored long hours at CosmoGIRL! and Seventeen magazine.

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