Happily N’Ever After Review
By Shawn McKenzie 01/10/2007
In the latest film to skewer the world of fairy tales, a la the Shrek movies and last year’s Hoodwinked, the Wizard (voice of George Carlin) is the controller of the scale of good and evil in Fairy Tale Land. He monitors the scale to make sure that all of the fairy tales will end with their traditional happy endings…using a magical staff, a remote control, and a crystal ball. He decides to go on vacation to Scotland for some golfing via a porthole (to the real world I’m assuming), and he leaves his assistants…an uptight pig named Munk (voice of Wallace Shawn) and a more fun-loving cat named Mambo (voice of Andy Dick)…in charge of the scale. Mambo, bored with the predictability of the fairy tales, messes with the scale, and things start messing up. Meanwhile, Ella (voice of Sarah Michelle Gellar), a.k.a. Cinderella, receives the invitations to Prince Humperdink’s (voice of Patrick Warburton) 21st birthday party, where he intends to find a princess to marry. Ella is in love with the Prince, but her evil stepmother Frieda (voice of Sigourney Weaver) makes her do an endless list of chores before she can go to the ball. Frieda and Ella’s two evil stepsisters (voices of Kath Soucie and Jill Talley) head off to the ball. Not long after, Ella’s Fairy Godmother (voice of Lisa Kaplan) appears and sets her up with a dress and a way to get to the ball. Along the way, Frieda witnesses Munk and Mambo’s screw-up and uses it to her disadvantage. She uses the magical staff to change the ending of several famous tales. The Big Bad Wolf eats Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel falls out of the tower, the Giant squishes Jack, Prince Charming falls asleep alongside Sleeping Beauty, and Rumplestiltskin (voice of Michael McShane) steals the Queen’s baby. Back at the ball, Ella’s dress transforms back into her handmaiden attire long before midnight, and the idiotic Prince, who has to consult his fairy tale guide before he makes a move, doesn’t even see her. Ella needs the help of the Prince’s servant, Rick (voice of Freddie Prinze Jr.), a dishwasher in the castle, to correct the problem. The problem is that Rick (who is also the narrator) is in love with Ella, so he is not too hip with helping her get the Prince back. He does it anyway, because he hopes that he might be able to impress her with his heroism. Back at the Wizard’s castle, Frieda has summoned all of the bad guys in Fairy Tale Land to wreck havoc all around, and appoints Rumplestiltskin to become her sidekick. Ella, Rick, Munk, Mambo, and Snow White’s Seven Dwarves fight Frieda in an attempt to set things right before the Wizard comes back from his vacation.
Do you remember last year’s computer-animated Doogal? What about the crapfest of Valiant the year before that? If we are lucky, maybe Happily N’Ever After will be the only horrible computer-animated catastrophe of 2007.
Let’s start out with the golden couple of Gellar and Prinze Jr. This is their fifth movie together (after 1997’s I Know What You Did Last Summer, 1999’s She’s All That, and the two Scooby-Doo movies), and their chemistry hasn’t gotten any better. Prinze Jr. tries, but he isn’t funny. Gellar attempts to be different from her persona in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” or in any of her various horror movies, but fails miserably. I don’t know if she requested that the animators fashion her with a Winona Ryder-like pixie cut haircut or if it was their idea, but it looks stupid. For one thing…no portrayal of Cinderella I’ve seen has ever had that haircut. I know that they were trying to parody the traditional world of fairy tales…but they need the original platform in which to parody first.
Now let’s get on with the supporting characters. It always boggles my mind when they pay a big star for a small role. Carlin is barely in the movie, and he doesn’t get to be funny once. They could have used a regular animated voice to fill that role and paid him a lot less. Weaver actually wasn’t too bad as an evildoer voice, but I don’t understand why they needed to fashion her with more cleavage than I’ve ever seen in a PG-rated animated film.
It’s pretty sad when seasoned vocal pros to the world of animation don’t end up being the highlights. Warburton is normally the most memorable character, but as the Prince, he ended up being the stupidest one (and I don’t mean because his character was technically stupid.) Shawn and Dick tried to be another Odd Couple team, but they were disappointing.
That’s the main problem with Happily N’Ever After overall is that it was disappointing. Vocal actors can only do so much with a weak script (penned by Robert Moreland.) I mean c’mon…what was the point of the story? Why are these fairy tales on an unending cycle? If they are fated to begin again…then why not wait until the sad ending ends and start over from scratch? Didn’t the wizard have any failsafe monitor when they put two idiots in charge of the fates of the characters in Fairy Tale Land? Does this mean that Ella is going to pine for the Prince once the tales start over again? What seemed like it could have been an interesting and amusing idea was poorly executed. After 2006 turned out to be a great year for family films, it’s sad that the first one of 2007 might set the tone for the months to follow. I hope that we will still see a celluloid happy ending by year’s end.
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