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With: Anne Hathaway, Hugh Dancy, Cary Elwes, Vivica A. Fox, Joanna Lumley, Aidan McArdle, Minnie Driver, Eric Idle, Nora Jane Noone, Parminder Nagra, Jimi Mistry
Written by: Laurie Craig, Karen McCullah Lutz, Kirsten Smith, Jennifer Heath, Michele J. Wolff, based on the book by Gail Carson Levine
Directed by: Tommy O'Haver
MPAA Rating: PG for some crude humor and language
Running Time: 96
Date: 04/09/2004

Ella Enchanted (2004)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Obeying Angel

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Taking cues from Labyrinth, Ever After, A Knight's Tale, and many other films, the incredibly charming Ella Enchanted adds its own spice to become one of the most endearing kids' movies in a long while. I wouldn't even mind watching it more than once, which is the true test.

Beautiful Anne Hathaway (The Princess Diaries, Nicholas Nickleby) stars as Ella, who as a child receives the gift of obedience from a fairy godmother. Now she must obey anyone who tells her to do anything. When a child in the schoolyard says "bite me," Ella obliges. But when Ella falls in love with a handsome prince (Hugh Dancy), she must undo the spell before she unwillingly carries out orders to kill him at his coronation ceremony.

Writers Laurie Craig, Karen McCullah Lutz, Kirsten Smith, Jennifer Heath and Michele J. Wolff and director Tommy O'Haver (Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss, Get Over It) sprinkle bits of modern-day lore into their period fairy tale. In one scene, Ella visits a "mall" complete with moving wooden escalators. Ella is also a liberal activist who cares about the rights of elves, trolls and giants (some old-fashioned forced perspective effects help re-size everyone).

A great cast rounds out the film: Vivica A. Fox as the fairy godmother, Cary Elwes as the prince's evil uncle, Parminder Nagra as Ella's best friend, Minnie Driver as Ella's ineffective fairy auntie and Eric Idle as the narrator.

A hugely colorful, joyous film, Ella Enchanted gets plenty of mileage from Hathaway, who is a brilliant comedienne as well as a stunning beauty. If only the film hadn't gone with an overly conventional chase/fight ending, it might have been an all-time classic.

Miramax's special edition DVD release comes with a series of deleted scenes that show just how quickly Ella Enchanted might have plummetted off a cliff. Some brilliant editor chose wisely in making this wonderfully charming, if minor, family film. Ms. Hathaway is really the key to the film's success, combining her stunning beauty with a warm, self-effacing humor and consummate skill. She makes this DVD a keeper. Other extras include a commentary track by the director and his two leads, extended scenes, a music video, making-of featurettes, a "set top" game for kids and DVD-Rom features. The film is mastered in 1.85-to-1 widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. An optional French language track and Spanish subtitles are included.

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