If a fairy tale is a story that holds truth, Ella Enchanted holds truth hostage, smothering it underneath road-killed routines and soggy dialogue. Director Tommy O’Haver has concocted an insipid brew the likes of mixing TV’s “Charmed” and “Raven” into a bowl of postmodern porridge; dished out, of course, within an ELO and Elton John magical sound track. At least the film’s prevailing message is valid: think for yourself, or you just may kill the thing you love most.
You know the story. It’s practically fed to us in utero. This time around, Cinderella is cursed at the onset when the fairy godmother Lucinda (Vivica A. Fox) bestows the gift of obedience upon the helpless babe — soon to grow up into the adorable princess veteran Anne Hathaway.
Obedience may have been a quality applauded in young ladies back in the Mother Goose days, but in new millennium now, teen girls doing everything they’re told to do is the kiss of death. The Snow White sweet and harmless shtick just doesn’t cut it anymore because today’s kids know you can’t change the world if you’re constantly succumbing to peer — and evil stepmother — pressure. Ella has her own strong-minded, good-hearted ideas, but her protests against ogre-cide and the segregation of the kingdom are cut short because her stepsisters are hip to her weakness. This interesting twist on the tale is drowned in untimeless, throw-away bite me and kick his butt colloquialisms, giants that look like regulars at T.G.I.Fridays bar, and storybook clichés, like Ella befriending a misfit elf that wants to be a dentist, I mean lawyer.
Someone should tell O’Haver and the gaggle of writers it took to write this unenchanted mess that updated doesn’t have to mean washed-up and dumbed-down. Our kids deserve better than that.
Anita Schmaltz writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].