RetroReviews #46: Ella Enchanted (2004)

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JULY 3, 2013 SCREENING: ELLA ENCHANTED (2004)

 

Having watched Enchanted (2007), I figured I should follow it up with a similar sounding fantasy movie, thus my decision to give Ella Enchanted a shot. There are some similarities – both films deliberately parody various aspects of “princess finds true love with a handsome Prince” fairy tale, but Ella Enchanted is more of a romantic comedy. I have to give it credit though – it may be from the point of view of the princess and revolve around her getting the handsome prince, but is it infinitely more watchable than numerous other chick flicks I’ve had the misfortune of sitting though.

 

Ella Enchanted’s strength for comedy is also the film’s greatest weakness, however. It knows its mocking perfect fairy tale words, so it goes over the top at times and beats the audience to death with its parody. A perfect example is the prince character. Named Prince Charmont, he is lovingly referred as “Char” for shot, and is depicted as a Justin Bieber-like teen icon with thrones of adoring fans who carry signs around cheering him on. This absurdity of putting modern teen culture in a medieval setting is very funny at first, but quickly overstays its welcome. The magic element of the story also becomes less effective over time – Ella has a spell placed on her as a child that forces her to obey any direct command she’s given (hence the title of the film). Naturally the movie exploits this for several very funny scenes, but it gets really stupid after a while. It also leads to several plot holes, as there are at least two errors in the screenplay where someone directly tells Ella to do something, but she doesn’t comply. That is an inexcusable mistake when you make your main plot revolve around the concept that she has no choice but to obey all direct orders.

 

Although its not meant to be taken seriously, the film does do a suitable job creating its only fantasy world, complete with different types of fairy characters, giants, ogres, and a talking magical book. Most of them were a pleasant surprise, especially considering how poor mythological creatures have been depicted in Hollywood movies from time to time.

Apparently there is some controversy over this film because it is based on a book of the same name, which is follows only loosely. Having never read the book, I can’t judge how it deviates from the source material, and whether it does so for good or ill. I can say that the way it is presented is pretty much a mixed bag. A lot of the humor works, but it gets on your nerves after a while, and the basic storyline pays off, if you shut off your brain and ignore numerous errors that occur within the film’s setup. It’s fun while it lasts, though I doubt this film will have much lastly impact on you. If you have any daughters between the ages of 7 – 13, this might be a good film to check out.

 

** out of ****

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