Ella Enchanted (staring Anne Hathaway and Hugh Dancy; directed by Tommy O’Haver). Currently available on Netflix.
The Short Version
Its charm and wit will win you over before you even realize that it’s dropping hot social and cultural commentary along the way.
The Plot in a Nutshell
After Ella’s fairy god mother gifts her with obedience, Ella is forced to follow any command given by anybody at any time. It’s a rough life indeed, especially when her evil-stepsister (Cinderella style) discovers her secret. Ella must go on a journey to track down her fairy god mother, learning about herself and finding her inner strength in the process. She’s joined by a merry cast of characters that offer laughs, romance, and fun.
I’ll start by saying that the CGI doesn’t do Ella Enchanted any favors. At points, it’s downright cringe-worthy. But if you can look past tragic CGI in your fairy tales (and I suspect most people can because Once Upon a Time is a huge hit), you’re in for a real treat because this movie is a delight.
Who doesn’t love a good fairy tale retelling? The movie moves away from the Cinderella story that its book counterpart is based on, and instead offers an anachronistic fairy tale with a mix of solid pop-culture references that move it into fairy tale satire territory. Elements from Shrek, Robin Hood, A Princess Bride, and A Knight’s Tale all make appearances in this quirky tale. This is a movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and I suggest you don’t either. It’s a fun time, and you should just relax and let it be.
And while its laid-back attitude provides laughs and sass, Ella Enchanted remains a story of personal (and female) empowerment. Ella, depicted beautifully by Anna Hathaway, has to become her own hero in order to save herself. Sure, she has help, but she remains the star of her show. And every other character, including the hero, shines brighter because of her.
Ella Enchanted also contains political and social undercurrents that are surprisingly ahead of their time (the movie was released in 2004). Characters face race-based persecution, discrimination, and even slavery. An elf wants to be an attorney (I can’t imagine why), but it has been decreed that elves will not engage in any position outside of singing, dancing, or tomfoolery. Giants are forced to work in the fields while guards hit them with whips. And Ogres have their land stolen by the kingdom. It’s some heavy stuff. But I think the social agenda of the movie works well in the story, and it adds to the overlying theme of empowerment.
For this movie, I suggest watching it in your pajamas with your bestest lady friends. So don’t put too much thought into it.
Grab a bottle of wine if you must.
But I suggest root beer floats. Although alcohol free, root beer floats are a perfect way to enhance the young, carefree nature of this film. Plus, they are delicious.
Order a pizza (or five). Grab some bags of chocolate candy. And call it a night.