Ella Enchanted

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

When Ella (Anne Hathaway) was just an infant, her fairy godmother (Vivica A. Fox) gave her a special gift. Not a crib or some toys or some normal present, instead she was given the gift of obedience. So whenever she was told to do something, she was forced to follow the order, no matter what was demanded. Even if she wasn’t tired, she would have to sleep if told, or to be quiet even if she wanted to shout her lungs out. No one was told of her gift, for concerns that she would be used by those with ill intentions. As she grew up however, she often found herself doing things she didn’t wish to do, often by mistake. When her mother died, she was left in the care of her father and soon, he remarried. Not for love, but for money and Ella’s new family wasn’t just bad, they were downright terrible. The secret of Ella’s gift is soon discovered by her snotty stepsisters, who boss her around all the time. Even when a young prince takes an interest in Ella, her gift complicates the situation and she falls on her face. In order to escape her gift, she runs off to find her fairy godmother, wherever she is. As she travels, she learns about the plight of ogres, elves, and others, plus she meets a lot of new friends. But when she is ordered to murder the love of her life, can she finally break the curse of obedience?

This looks like a Disney movie, even plays like a Disney movie, but don’t be fooled, this is a Miramax movie. The previews make it seem like this is an almost sequel to The Princess Diaries, plus Anne Hathaway’s presence makes us assume that Disney is involved, but without question, this is not a Mouse House production. In truth, Ella Enchanted plays like a feminist fairy tale with politically correct tones, as if to ensure no one would be offended. Kind of lame to be sure, especially when done with such obvious push. I have no problem with a social message, but use it to bolster the story, not the other way around. But even if taken as a brisk, family friendly motion picture, Ella falls short of expectations. The film has some good moments, but tries too hard to be a live action Shrek and that dooms the movie. Hathaway is fun to watch, as always, but her character is rather thin and she has little to work with. The lead isn’t always easy to like, as she has a bad attitude and is inconsistent with her mindsets. In other words, Miramax has failed with a project that Disney could have hit a grand slam with. I wouldn’t say Ella Enchanted is a total waste, but it could have been so much better, in the hands of another studio. Even so, a rental is justified for those interested, though a purchase would be ill advised.

She might not be as well known as Hilary Duff or Mandy Moore, but Anne Hathaway has quite an impressive resume. She broke into stardom just a few films before Ella Enchanted, but she has several box office hits and turned in all solid performances. In this movie, Hathaway has the perfect mixture of sweetness, firmness, and goofiness to make the role work, which not a lot of actors her age could accomplish. She handles the comic demands with ease, while her good looks and sweet presence allow her to be effective in romance driven scenes as well. Of course, she isn’t asked to do that much in Ella Enchanted, so perhaps we shouldn’t use this as a yardstick by which to measure her true talent. But in the world of family friendly cinema, Hathaway is one of the best and consistent young talents. She seems to be taking some more adult aimed roles down the line, so time will tell if Hathaway can maintain her star status. Other films with Hathaway include The Princess Diaries, Brokeback Mountain, The Other Side of Heaven, and Nicholas Nickleby. The cast also includes Cary Elwes (Kiss the Girls, The Princess Bride), Minnie Driver (Beautiful, Circle of Friends), and Hugh Dancy (Black Hawk Down, King Arthur).

Video: How does it look?

Ella Enchanted is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. I was pretty pleased with the treatment offered here, as the image is quite sharp and shows minimal flaws, good work indeed. I did see a few scenes that looked a little dark, but usually the contrast is dead on, so no real worries there. The colors look vivid and bright, with no errors I could detect, while flesh tones were natural throughout. I also saw no traces of compression flaws, which leaves me to score this one well, another great transfer from Miramax.

Audio: How does it sound?

The included Dolby Digital 5.1 track won’t disappoint, but this material isn’t that powerful, so don’t expect too much. The main surround presence comes from the musical soundtrack and a few audio intensive scenes, such as the ones with Dig’s plane. The atmosphere is active when it needs to be, but that it isn’t often and as such, the front channels handle most of the burden. This is how it should be however, as the film is dialogue driven and the vocals are well presented, with no real issues to report. This disc also includes a French language track, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish, just in case.

Supplements: What are the extras?

An audio commentary track is up first, as director Tommy O’Haven is joined by stars Anne Hathaway and Hugh Dancy. This is a solid session, as the three recall humorous stories from the set and cover a lot of ground. I didn’t expect much from this track, but I had fun with the session and fans will love it even more. A half hour promotional featurette offer some decent interviews, while a second piece offer some red carpet footage from the film’s premiere. This disc also includes a selection of deleted scenes, Kari Kimmel’s It’s Not Just Make-Believe music video, and a lame game for the kiddies to experience.

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