Ella Enchanted

Very loosely based on the story of Cinderella, Ella is born in a land where each baby is bestowed a gift from one of the local fairies. Unfortunately, Ella’s comes from the eccentric fairy Lucinda, who presents the “gift” of perfect obedience to the child, forced against her will to do any directive she is told to do. Only Ella’s mother and their ineffective house fairy Mandy know about the specifics of the gift, and do their best to protect Ella as she grows older. In school, the other children just find her occasional behavior peculiar. When on her death bed, Ella’s mother tells her she cannot tell anyone else about the specifics of her affliction.

Ella is able to survive and grow into a beautiful young woman who attends Frell Community College along with her best friend Areida. Trouble comes into Ella’s life when her father decides to marry Dame Olga, who brings into the house two annoying daughters, Hattie and Olive. Disgusted by the meagerness of her new surroundings, Hattie demands to see Ella’s room. Noticing a pattern after making several otherwise innocent statements, Hattie and Olive embrace their newfound power by making Ella steal a variety of items from the Frell Galleria. Ridiculed by her stepmother for being a thief and unable to exonerate herself, Ella decides to seek out Lucinda and get the fairy to rescind the gift, with only the help of Benny, Lucinda’s boyfriend, whom she accidentally turned into a magical book years ago, to get Ella to where she needs to be.

Traveling from her homeland to the land of the Giants, where Lucinda is attending a wedding, according to Benny, Ella comes across Slannen of Pim, an elf who wishes to defy the law of the land and become a lawyer. You see, many years ago, the King of all the land was mysteriously murdered, and until his son Prince Charmont became of age, the King’s brother Sir Edgar would act as ruler. One of the many laws enacted during Edgar’s reign is that elves must do nothing else but be entertainers. Ella invites Slannen to join her, as her journey will take them past Lamia, the main city of the kingdom, where he might be able to lodge his protest with Edgar. But before they can reach their first destination, Ella and Slannen are seized by a trio of hungry ogres, who wish to make the pair into a nice stew. Just as Ella is about to be dunked into a boiling pot of water, none other than Prince Char comes to save the day. However, Ella is not impressed with the dashing Prince, whom she finds too indifferent about the well being of those who will be his subjects in a matter of days, after his coronation.

Ella, Char and Slannen arrive at the Giant wedding, which starts out as potentially threatening, as another Edgar law has forced segregation and slavery on the otherwise gentle giants, until Ella convinces the leader Char was there to listen to their complaints. Ella then discovers Lucinda has recently left the party and subsequently been arrested for FWI, flying while intoxicated. The following morning, after a raucous celebration which included a “request” from one of the giants for Ella to sing and dance when the elf Slannen refused to, the group heads back to Lamia, where Lucinda lives and Char must prepare for his ordination to the throne. Edgar, who has learned of Ella’s gift with the help of his snake assistant Heston, hatches a devious scheme to be able to keep the crown for himself.

Will Ella be able to rid herself of this horrible gift and find true love with the handsome, socially awakening Prince Charr Will Edgar’s evil plan be dashed in timer Will Slannen be able to practice lawr

If you’ve ever read one fairy tale, you already know the answers to these questions. So why be bothered to see a film which you already know the outcome to before it even beginsr Because the journey is as important as where it ends, and sometimes it is fun to see an oft-told tale revealed in a different way. Director Tommy O’Haver and his cast clearly enjoyed working on “Ella Enchanted,” and it shows in the final product, which breezes through its 95 minute running time effectively and economically, wasting little time on story elements unneeded in fairy tales, like exposition or character development. As portrayed by the resplendent and engaging Anne Hathaway, Ella is already an intelligent and secure young woman, and not particularly looking for a Prince to sweep her off her feet. Even with the addition of the unexpected (to her) love interest, Ella does not particularly grow as a person, even when she finally figures out the meaning of the advise her mother gave her years before concerning the curse. Her supporting cast, which includes Joanna Lumley of “Absolutely Fabulous” as Ella’s insipid stepmother, Vivica A. Fox as the sassy fairy Lucinda, Minnie Driver as Mandy and Cary Elwes as the slimy Edgar, are effective in keeping the light tone swiftly moving.

On a technical level, the film looks great, with standout sets by master production designer Norman Garwood (who helped create the worlds of “Time Bandits” and “Brazil” with Terry Gilliam, as well as “The Princess Bride”) and bright, beautiful cinematography by John De Borman. Most of Ruth Myers’ costumes flatter the performers, although Ella’s final costume inexplicably looks like more a reject from Joey Heatherton’s closet circa 1969 than anything anyone in Frell would wear.

“Ella Enchanted” is a film adults can enjoy with their younger family members or alone, and might not too be embarrassed to recommend to their friends.

Rating: B+