Released 04/09/2004 Rated: PG
This movie is a complete disgrace to the book. The only thing it feels like they kept is the curse; they changed everything to make it more appealing for the pre-teen demographic, and the end result is this very big mess. This is really only supposed to be a different twist on Cinderella, but with all the additional characters and subplots that main plot line pretty much disappears in the mix. Anne Hathaway is the only redeeming value to this movie, but it’s not enough to justify sitting through it. Unfortunately the rest of it is nothing but green screen, very bad green screen actually.
They made everything too modern while trying to keep it in a medieval setting. Seeing as how that doesn’t work realistically, everything has an over-the-top, almost campy quality to it. A paper boy, a yellow taxi carriage, a Prince Charming fan club complete with teen girl mob, modern classic rock music including Queen’s “Somebody to Love” and Elton John’s “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” botox, and a wooden ESCALATOR at the grand opening of the new “mall” in the land of Frell. Seriously, who thought any of this was a good idea? I half expected a medieval iPod to show up.
The actual story is, for lack of a better word, an enchanting one about the life of Ella who was cursed when she was born with obedience by a foolish fairy named Lucinda. But the curse has made her more of a rebel than anything else, and when her new step-sister figures out her little secret Ella is determined more than ever to find a way to break it, which means finding the fairy who cast it. There is no plot to kill the prince, no tyrant king segregating the fairytale races, no elf who wants to be a lawyer, no talking book, rhyming narrator, or talking snake. The story is told by Ella, her father is an absentee who is more worried about his debts than of being a loving father, Char falls in love with Ella through their correspondence in letters after befriending her and finding her intriguing, Hattie informs her mother of Ella’s inability to disobey orders and they make Ella their servant, and Lucinda learns of the burdens her “gifts” actually are and renounces big magic. Lucinda was the most annoying character in the film because she was so self righteous and didn’t learn a thing.
The book really is a gem in children’s literature. Skip the movie and buy the book. You won’t be sorry. However if you are looking for a similar movie I would recommend Ever After. It’s closer to the film this one should have been: a heartwarming film to be loved.