Ella Enchanted (2004)

(In theaters, June 2004) Virtually unnoticed by critics and audiences, this fairy-tale satire actually works surprisingly well, solidly claiming a tradition in the vein of The Princess Bride. Part of the considerable charm of the picture rests squarely on the adorable shoulders of headliner Anne Hathaway, whose charisma shines throughout. (It’s not simply how cute she looks when she shakes-shakes-shakes her booty, though that also helps. For a kid’s film, its scores fairly high on the babe-o-meter, what with perennial favourites Minnie Driver, Parminder Nagra and Vivian E. Fox all showing up for too-few scenes.) The premise (a mish-mash of fairy-tale sorcery and gentle political satire) has the potential to be annoying, what with its unconvincing “obedience” shtick, but it manages to go beyond the obvious gags and present something more interesting. The script eventually finds its voice, with some surprisingly clever moments. (it’s probably not accident if it’s adapted from a book) Special effects are uneven, through the opening fly-by is a thing of beauty. All in all, a fine time at the movies, and a film that can be enjoyed by the entire family.

(Second viewing, On DVD, March 2005) Capable comedy riffing off fairytale motifs, holds up quite well to a second viewing. Good jokes, well told and quickly lined up. The limits of the budget are obvious, but the charm of Anne Hathaway in the lead role more than compensates for any sub-par special effects. Charming, fun and fit for the whole family. The DVD includes an adequate audio commentary and a number of supplements worth watching once, at the exception of the dull and repetitive featurette.

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