A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ever After is a version of the Cinderella story that's darker than Disney's. It doesn't shy away from the nastiness that pervades the relationship between the stepmother and Cinderella (here known as Danielle). But it's also far more inspiring and empowering. Though Danielle is in dire straits, she isn't in desperate need of rescuing and is actually the one who stands up for others' rights. Younger kids may be disturbed by some characters' excessive, non-cartoonish meanness, but much of that is mitigated by the great storytelling and sweet romance, which tweens and older will enjoy. Expect some fistfights and swordplay, a sad on-screen death, plus some language ("horses--t" and some muttered, hard-to-hear "f--k"s, which were edited out of the PG-rated version that was released on VHS but remain in the PG-13 version that was released theatrically and on DVD).
What's the story?
EVER AFTER asks the question: is the Cinderella tale made famous in storybooks told exactly as it happened? Or is there more to it? It turns out there is: Cinderella, as we know her, is actually Danielle (Drew Barrymore), a young woman who loses her father shortly after he remarries, leaving her alone with a stepmother (Anjelica Huston) who cares not a whit about her and stepsisters who follow their mom's lead. For years. Danielle toils as their servant, at their beck and call in the mansion that once was her happy home. When she runs into His Royal Highness Prince Henry (Dougray Scott), whom the king and queen are anxious to marry off, Danielle's life is changed. But can a royal fall in love with a commoner? There's no fairy godmother, but a certain Leonardo da Vinci may be able to help. ...
Is it any good?
It's hard to imagine how to improve upon the classic that is Cinderella, but this delightful romantic drama does just that. With sincerity and girl-power can do, Ever After transforms the traditional story into a textured revision that isn't neatly tied up with a bow. It is, in fact, a heartbreaking story that's gently and beautifully told. After all, what isn't heartbreaking about a young woman who works so hard to obtain her cold-hearted stepmother's love, only to realize that she'll never get it?
Huston makes for a wickedly potent stepmother, but one who isn't caricatured to excess. In one scene, a flicker of appreciation passes through her face as she looks at Danielle, only to disappear quickly, and you understand that she's not so much monstrous as she is broken -- meant to be pitied rather than scorned. But she still gets her come-uppance in the end. Barrymore's accent jars, but her signature fiery sweetness works here. We don't quite forget she's an actress playing a role, but we enjoy her nevertheless. Director Andy Tennant moves the story along at a pleasant pace, goosing it with refreshing surprises such as Leonardo da Vinci playing matchmaker. We've never seen Cinderella like this, and, oh, what a happily ever after!
Talk to your kids about ...
- In theaters: February 21, 1999
- On DVD or streaming: January 14, 2003
- Cast: Anjelica Huston, Dougray Scott, Drew Barrymore
- Director: Andy Tennant
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Romance
- Topics: Princesses and Fairies
- Run time: 121 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: momentary strong language (the "edited version" that was released on VHS was rated PG for brief language and mild thematic elements)
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