Ella Enchanted (PG)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner13/12/2004

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 96 mins

Enjoyable family comedy featuring a thoroughly enchanting performance by Anne Hathaway that more than makes up for both Princess Diaries movies.

Ella Enchanted is based on the novel by Gail Carson Levine and clearly aspires to the same heights of irreverent ‘fairy tale with a modern twist’ comedy that worked so well for its two most obvious inspirations, Shrek and The Princess Bride. Though it doesn’t quite hit those heights, it’s still a lot more enjoyable than the equally similar A Knight’s Tale, thanks to a delightful performance by Anne Hathaway.

Fairy Tale With Modern Twist

Anne Hathaway plays Ella of Frell, who received the “gift” of obedience from her ditzy Fairy Godmother (Vivica A. Fox) when she was a baby and has to do everything she’s told as a result. Unable to tell anyone of her curse, she finds herself cruelly manipulated by her step-sisters (Lucy Punch and Jennifer Higham) when they discover her secret. In desperation, Ella sets off to find her Fairy Godmother and rid herself of her “gift” once and for all. Along the way she meets an ambitious Elf (Aidan McArdle) and finds herself falling for the handsome Prince Charmont (Hugh Dancy), whose evil uncle Edgar (Cary Elwes) is plotting to take over the Kingdom.

Anne Hathaway is thoroughly enchanting as Ella, in a performance that single-handedly atones for the awfulness of the Princess Diaries movies. She makes a terrific heroine and really gives the part her all, both physically and emotionally.

Highlights include an amusing fight sequence (with the Elf giving her orders as she takes out some ogres) and an impressive rendition of Queen’s “Somebody to Love”, with the audience shouting things like “Shake it, baby”, which she has to obey.

Some Nice Touches

Director Tommy O’Haver gives the film a suitably colourful fairy-tale atmosphere and there are some nice touches, such as Ella’s nursemaid Mandy and her book-bound boyfriend (Jimi Mistry). Sadly, however, the film wastes its impressive supporting cast, particularly Parminder Nagra, as Ella’s best friend, who disappears after an upsetting racially-tinged plot development, but also the likes of Joanna Lumley (as Ella’s wicked step-mother) and Minnie Driver as Mandy.

Faring slightly better in the supporting cast stakes are Hugh Dancy (good, if a little bland) and Cary Elwes, whose casting is spot on, given that he was the hero of The Princess Bride.

The script is patchy in places, as you’d expect with five credited screenwriters, and there are a couple of pointless characters, such as Edgar’s CGI snake sidekick, who doesn’t say very much, despite being voiced by Steve Coogan. Similarly, not all the gags work, but there’s enough here to keep both adults and children entertained. In short, Ella Enchanted succeeds thanks to Hathaway’s charming performance, but it’s not the children’s classic that it could have been with a sharper script. Worth seeing, anyway, particularly if you have younger family members to entertain this Christmas.

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Ella Enchanted (PG)
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Content updated: 13/12/2017 12:41

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