20 November 2015

Ella Enchanted (starring Anne Hathaway)

I always like variations on traditional stories, and someone recommended this to me a year or two back. It went on my wishlist and I was given it for Christmas nearly two years ago. It’s taken this long to watch it, but we decided on something light and undemanding for a free evening - and ‘Ella Enchanted’ certainly fit those requirements.

It’s loosely based on the story of Cinderella, with the added twist, Snow White style, of a gift bestowed at birth by a fairy on baby Ella. Lucinda (Vivica A Fox) isn’t exactly a bad fairy, but her gifts are renowned for being rather problematic. And Ella is given the gift of obedience. This isn’t such a bad thing when her only family are loving parents, and a rather bumbling house fairy (Minnie Driver), although she sometimes finds it tedious. But then her mother dies and her father remarries, and her step-sisters soon discover that Ella always does what she’s told to do….

The early part of the story is fairly brief, and Anne Hathaway plays the teenage/young adult Ella. She’s outspoken, and also thinks for herself in a way that’s not expected from young women in this pseudo-Mediaeval era. I say pseudo because although the castles and most of the scenery are from this era, there’s also modern pop music and some far more up-to-date touches which were mostly quite amusing. For instance, the Prince (Hugh Dancy), is plagued with a screaming fan club headed by Ella’s step-sisters.

Since it’s a fairytale setting, other characters include elves, giants and ogres, all of whom (we learn) used to live peacefully alongside the humans; but recently the Prince’s uncle (Cary Elwes) has taken power from his deceased brother, and new rules have been drawn up. The giants are treated as slave labour, the elves required to sing and dance on demand. Life is terrible for an elf wanting a more academic career.

So there’s a lot more than the simple story of Cinders and the Prince. Ella isn’t treated like a servant, at least not in the traditional sense, and she’s far from enamoured of the Prince when she first bumps into him. Her main aim, from her teenage years, is to find Fairy Lucinda and ask her to withdraw her gift - only when that happens does Ella believe she will be free.

We thought it very well-made, on the whole. The elf scenes are a bit silly at times, and the outside scenery not entirely believable; but the ogres are wonderfully nasty and the giants mostly amusing in their love of partying and entertainment. The inevitable romance between the Prince and Ella is fraught with difficulties, even more so when her secret is discovered. There’s some tension and low-key violence and suspense but nothing gory or frightening; the rating is PG and we thought that probably right.

There are a few extras: we watched a documentary about the making of the film, which was quite interesting: it showed how the ogres were made up, and why Anne Hathaway was chosen as Ella. There’s a game of sorts, too, accessible via the remote control - but either we didn’t understand how it worked, or it was remarkably difficult. We didn’t persevere.

All in all, a pleasant evening’s viewing which would be appropriate for the whole family.

Review by copyright 2015 Sue's DVD Reviews

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