5-Word 365 #167 – Ella Enchanted

I may have mentioned this once or twice before, but I am a soppy git. I don’t like feeling manipulated, but anything genuinely romantic just gets me all misty. A friend of mine sent me a YouTube clip today where a guy got all his friends and family to do a musical number in the street to help him propose to his girlfriend, and watching it sort of reminded me of the opening credit sequence from Get Over It (only with a happier ending). I’ve seen that film too many times to write about it here in this project. Luckily for me though, the director Tommy O’Haver followed it up with an adaptation of a book that was an updated version of Cinderella. It’s sort of for kids, and it’s on Lovefilm streaming. Ha! You all thought this was just going to be another random ramble, didn’t you?!

Ella Enchanted

Patrick Bergin really can’t dance.

While just a baby, young Ella was given the gift of obedience by her rather useless fairy godmother, meaning that she was compelled to carry out any instruction given to her. As she grew older, this “gift” proved itself to be more of a curse, especially after her mother died and her father remarried. On a mission to try and get her curse lifted, Ella finds herself travelling with Prince Char and the two end up falling in love. Meanwhile, Char’s evil uncle Sir Edgar plots to use Ella’s curse to have her kill Char, so that Edgar will be crowned king. Singing ensues.

Two of my favourite high school movies of the last fifteen years or so are the aforementioned Get Over It and 10 Things I Hate About You. Both are deceptively witty and share an irreverent and just slightly absurd sense of humour that really hits my buttons. This film combines the director of the first with the writers of the second and the result is the closest thing to a Monty Python-esque fairy tale since The Princess Bride. Even Eric Idle himself shows up as The Narrator.

Hang on, maybe I’m getting a tiny bit carried away here. The movie is a lot of fun and has a fairly constant vein of humour running through it, but there aren’t any real gut-bustingly hilarious moments. It could be argued that Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith’s script is more of a satire of Gail Levine’s novel than a straight adaptation, poking fun at many of the standard fairy tale tropes that Levine stuck to in her retelling of the Cinderella story. It’s just a shame that this writing duo seem to have lost their mojo since moving away from the teen arena to more allegedly grown-up fare like The Ugly Truth and the universally-decried One For The Money.

She can kick my ass anytime she wants to. Hang on, did I say that out loud?

The cast all buy in to the tone of the movie and they all seem game to have some fun with it, particularly Anne Hathaway and Cary Elwes. Hathaway’s Ella is a thoroughly modern presence, strong-willed (despite the curse) and pretty handy in a fight, while Elwes plays Sir Edgar as wickedly charming and devious. Hugh Dancy is a bit of a weak link as Prince Char however. He seems a bit drippy when he should be more rugged, and his transformation from politically ignorant sap to enlightened statesman after two days with Ella is a bit hard to swallow. That faintly ridiculous bouffant doesn’t do him any favours either. Aiden McArdle plays Ella’s elf sidekick Slannan with the typical Irish wit and constant sense of vague exasperation. He gets most of the best lines too. Minnie Driver and Jimi Mistry do okay in rather underwritten parts, while poor Parminder Nagra might as well not even be there for all the screentime she gets as Ella’s supposed best friend.

The movie was shot entirely in County Wicklow, Ireland – one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. And no, I’m not saying that because I’m biased. There is plenty of greenscreen work in the scenes at Giantsville and in the larger exteriors, and most of it doesn’t quite gel as well as you would expect it to for a film shot in 2004. Whether that was a deliberate choice to dull the sense of reality and make it more fairy-tale-ish is a question I cannot answer. I suppose it depends on how generous you’re feeling. I will say this though: the greenscreen distraction effect did somewhat spoil Ella’s first big music number, when she was ordered to sing at the giants’ wedding and busted out a bit of Queen. Hathaway has one hell of a pair of lungs and she goes at it with gusto, but she is let down by the poor staging and the shoddy compositing. These problems are handled much better at the film’s climax though. I love a big cast song and dance sequence over the closing credits and this does not disappoint.

If you had just married Anne Hathaway and she was standing in front of you dressed like this, would you have your arms hanging by your sides like a moron?

If you put this flick on expecting some brainless tween nonsense, you should end up pleasantly surprised. It is (mostly) well-acted and consistently funny, with a pretty solid message about following your own mind and not trusting talking snakes with red eyes. Words to live by, I’m sure you’ll agree.


  1. Bubbawheat · June 16, 2012

    My wife really enjoys this film, but I just couldn’t get into it. Maybe I was biased going into it expecting to hate it but I thought the plot was fairly generic, the method of how she breaks her curse seemed rather obvious from the beginning, and some of the cheaper special effects were rather distracting. I think it did make me laugh a few times despite myself. Might be worth a revisit sometime.

    • Ryan McNeely · June 17, 2012

      The plot is generic, you’re right, but I would say the filmmakers know that and try to play around with it a bit, especially with the background gags. It’s still not to everyone’s taste though

  2. fernandorafael · June 18, 2012

    I wouldn’t have expected this film to be any good but, like we discussed earlier, maybe it’d be wise for me to give it a shot based on this review.

    • Ryan McNeely · June 20, 2012

      If you enjoyed The Princess Bride, you’ll probably like this (but probably not as much!)

Go ahead, punk. Make my day.

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