Anne Hathaway, with her beaming eyes and long locks, has the perfect looks for a princess fantasy, and you know what? She made one, it just got terribly overlooked. Ella Enchanted (2004) is Hathaway’s chance to play radiant and adorable, aww, her chance to play Cinderella. In a genial Medieval Times kingdom that’s kid-friendly enough, Hathaway is impeded with a spell of obedience given to her by a fairy godmother at birth. Throughout any adventure in her life, whenever someone tell her something that sounds like a command, Ella obeys with bodily compulsion, voilá a clang on the soundtrack. Vivica A. Fox is the mischievous fairy godmother too stubborn to lift the curse.
Many families, or more specifically mothers and daughters, likely enjoyed “Brave” this past weekend. That’s good, and they can likely enjoy another good time with this silly cup of tea. While Merida the Scottish princess found no interest in men of any age, Ella stubbornly admits to a crush, the dashing bachelor Prince Charmont (Hugh Dancy, British accent). The Prince, and all the other boys, are easier to tame than the snotty girl competition in this fantasy.
Take for instance Hatie and Olive (Lucy Punch and Jennifer Higham). These two are impending step-sisters who exploit Ella’s inducement to obedience, the kind to make her slap herself and stand on one leg (Yes, mild family movie stuff). Ella’s a good girl, for all she wants is to be a volunteer humanitarian on behalf of ogres and elves, the deemed social outcasts. That, and stop her father Sir Peter (Patrick Bergin) from re-marrying unwisely and bringing in these snotty pests into their family.
Sometimes the curse works to better purpose. “Stay right there,” the Prince says, and so Ella does. Ella gets caught up in the adventures of a Prince who will never let her go, and while she uses that time to convince the Prince that he needs to change social order when he becomes King, she to her own surprise falls in love with him. But the evil Prince Regent Edgar (Cary Elwes) and his CGI snake Heston whom together are treacherous in their scheme to overthrow the kingdom and destroy Ella’s mainspring valiant love.
All of this works in the tradition of “The Wizard of Oz,” and although it is not near that standard of greatness, it is a likeable and happy entertainment that exclaims the righteousness of girl power. Knowingly pop-referential, Hathaway gets to show off his singing and dancing gifts with “Somebody to Love,” and the more impressive finale “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” which is a fabulous Bollywood number that comprises the entire robust and cheerful cast.
96 Minutes. Rated PG.
Film Cousins: “The Wizard of Oz” (1939); “The Princess Bride” (1987); “Shrek” (2001); “Enchanted” (2007).