Ella Enchanted

Anne Hathaway has only been in three movies so far, The Princess Diaries, The Other Side of Heaven, and Nicholas Nickleby, but it's already clear that she is a talented actor with a potentially promising future. She is gorgeous, yet somehow looks ordinary enough that people can relate to her. She is great at expressing a wide variety of emotions, especially exasperation, and can convincingly cry on screen. Because of her choices thus far, she has endeared herself to little girls all over the world. Parents like her because all of her films have been rated over PG (which is pretty rare), and for the most part, are enjoyable. Ella Enchanted, based on the novel by Gail Carson Levine, falls squarely into her target demographic. Hathaway is Ella, a strong-willed, beautiful, plucky young woman, and she is appealing to watch and does a good job. However, she is nearing crossroads into her career. Hathaway needs to expand upon the roles she chooses, lest she be pigeonholed into the same type of role (not necessarily the worst thing) in every subsequent movie. The flipside is that if she chooses too extreme of a change, her fans may abandon her.

Anyways, Ella's fairy godmother Lucinda (Vivica A. Fox, Kill Bill Vol. 1, Boat Trip) gave her the gift of obedience when she was an infant. It is more of a curse, since Ella must do anything that people tell her. Her father remarries a horrible woman with equally horrid daughters, and her new stepsisters Hattie (Lucy Punch, Greenfingers) and Olive (Jennifer Higham) soon discover her secret and begin using it against her. Ella decides that she needs to go in search of Lucinda to ask her to take away the gift. Along for the trip is a talking book (Jimi Mistry, The Guru, The Mystic Masseur) and Slannen (Aidan McArdle), an elf that wants to be a lawyer. The kingdom is currently ruled by Edgar (Cary Elwes, The Cat's Meow, Shadow of the Vampire), who segregated the various races and, among other things, barred elves from doing anything other than entertaining. Ella is a socially conscious young woman, and wants to right these wrongs.

Ella Enchanted sounds a tad serious, but it does not take itself seriously at all. There is a whimsical quality to the film and its oddball approach to storytelling. Modern day trappings mesh perfectly with the medieval surroundings (an escalator?) and small sight gags fill the background. The surroundings are colorful, but look a little fake. There are even two musical numbers complete with Hathaway lip-syncing Queen and Elton John. The only thing missing is the montage scene where she tries on different clothes. And most of the actors (aside from Hathaway), use the same overacting and exaggeration present in lesser children's movies. Yes, director Tommy O'Haver (Get Over It, Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss) is playing directly to little girls, but there is a superficiality to everything that doesn't mesh well. Ella's desire for social justice borders on being preachy. She wants equality for the giants, ogres, and elves, and when given the chance, will make her stand.

The romantic aspect of Ella Enchanted falls squarely with the rest of the film. Ella has no interest in Prince Charmont (Hugh Dancy, Black Hawk Down, Young Blades), who will ascend the throne shortly. Ella believes that he is just like Edgar. Of course they meet, and Char (as he prefers) falls for her, and it is inevitable that she will fall for him. She is unlike all the other girls who swoon at the very sight of him. It's all pretty standard, with Hathaway's charm the only thing lifting the film above complete mediocrity. Part of the problem lies with the premise and Laurie Craig (Paulie, Face the Music), and Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith's (Legally Blonde, 10 Things I Hate About You) adaptation. It's extremely difficult to believe that nobody would have figured out that Ella had to obey everything. Yet the first person to do so is pretty stupid. The cheeky attitude (which often borders on cheesy) and social lessons do not mesh well, but O'Haver also slips in a message on personal empowerment. Essentially, girls will love it, everybody else will find it mildly diverting

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 35 minutes, Rated PG for some crude humor and language.

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