A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although kids may want to see this animated fairy tale "reimagining," it's not really worth their time. The movie revises the Cinderella story in order to let the "bad guys" win ... for a minute. This results in some minor violence, much dastardly laughter, and temporary changes to familiar fairy tale plots (Rumplestiltskin steals the baby, Sleeping Beauty doesn't wake up, etc.). Many genre clichés are played out here: The wicked stepmother is mean, her daughters are obnoxious, the prince is dimwitted, and wolves, trolls, and the giant are ugly and lumbering. There's a little bit of potty humor, and a couple of none-too-menacing scenes in the dark woods. The cartoony violence primarily consists of falls and inconsequential explosions (no one dies).
What's the story?
According to the narrator, lowly dishwasher Rick (Freddie Prinze Jr.), HAPPILY N'EVER AFTER is a variation on Cinderella. Wicked stepmother Frieda (Sigourney Weaver) has grown weary of always "losing" the battle between good and evil in her much-repeated story. Seeking redress, she seizes the magical staff belonging to the wizard (George Carlin) and declares herself the winner. Frieda is proactive, calling together assorted villains -- trolls, wolves, witches, and a giant -- in order to thwart Ella (Sarah Michelle Gellar)'s happy ending.
Is it any good?
Oddly lackadaisical, Happily N'Ever After also has shoddy animation and an uninspired soundtrack. Everyone involved apparently worked only halftime: Weaver's evil cackle seems on a loop, a singing duet by Prinze and Gellar sounds like it was recorded on a four-track in someone's basement, and the wizard literally appears for two minutes at film's start before he smartly abandons the movie. You'll wish you had the good sense to walk out with him.
Rick's narration is colored by his own desire for Ella, but since she feels compelled to follow the plot of "the book" dutifully and repeatedly, she only has eyes for lunkheaded, big-chested Prince Humperdinck (Patrick Warburton). (He, for one, has no problem with his role, as he's able to admire himself as others do.) Only resentful Rick seems capable of imagining another option -- at least until he feels rejected by Ella, at which point the plot takes a pause while Rick sulks.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the film's premise -- that all fairy tales follow a basic plot and might need to be invigorated. How would you change the plots of these familiar stories? Is there another way to change the ending without focusing on "good" and "evil" characters? How does Rick's point of view affect the movie? What might happen if Ella didn't decide to like him in the end? What do you think happens to Ella's stepsisters? What other movies have covered similar territory? What makes this one better/worse than those?
- In theaters: January 4, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: May 1, 2007
- Cast: Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Sigourney Weaver
- Director: Paul J. Bolger
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and fantasy, Adventures
- Run time: 85 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some mild action and rude humor.
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