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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
She Who Must Obey
by Betty Jo Tucker

She sings. She dances. She supports worthy causes. There’s only one thing wrong with the hip heroine of Ella Enchanted: at her birth, a fairy godmother bestowed the gift of obedience upon her. When told to do something, Ella must follow through. If someone says to her, “Hop to it,” she actually hops. When directed to “Hold your tongue,” Ella grabs her tongue. Being otherwise an independent-minded person, Ella decides this nonsense has to stop. She embarks on a journey to find her fairy godmother and persuade her to take away this annoying “gift.”

Adapted from the novel by Gail Carson Levine, Ella Enchanted is the umpteenth film based on the “Cinderella” fairy tale. As usual, a wicked stepmother (Joanna Lumley), two mean stepsisters (Lucy Punch and Jennifer Higham), and a handsome prince (Hugh Dancy) make their appearances --  along with the fairy godmother (Vivica A. Fox) mentioned above. But this updated version adds elves (who are forced to be entertainers), ogres, giants, a talking book (Jimi Mistry), a magic-challenged aunt (Minnie Driver), a narrator (Eric Idle) and an evil wannabe king (Cary Elwes, hilariously hammy here) into the mix. Fortunately, by successfully combining elements of A Knight’s Tale, Shrek and Ever After, Ella Enchanted emerges as a fun movie for the whole family.

Much of my enthusiasm for this film is due to its leading lady, lovely Anne Hathaway (Princess Diaries 2: Return Engagement), who shows off her flair for comedy and her exceptional singing talent in some very entertaining scenes. As the world’s most avid movie musical fan, I couldn’t help applauding Hathaway’s charming “Somebody To Love” number.  With perfect pitch, impressive range and impeccable phrasing, she enchanted me as well as the on-screen audience of giants who cheered Ella on. And the closing finale, “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart,” is a joy to watch. Even though done with tongue-in-cheek pizzazz, it reminded me of those big production numbers from glorious musicals I loved in days of yore.       

The soundtrack of Ella Enchanted offers another musical plus. It includes selections from Raven, Jesse McCartney and Kelly Clarkson. One of the DVD bonus features is a music video, “It’s Not Just Make Believe,” performed beautifully by Kari Kimmel.

Other bonus features are: Prince Charmont’s Fan Club Game; “The Magical World of Ella Enchanted” program; a Red Carpet Premiere Special; deleted scenes; audio commentary by Hathaway, Dancy and director Tammy O’Haver; and a DVD Rom activity entitled “Happily Ever After – Create Your Own Story.”

If I had a magic wand, I’d make sure everyone who loves fairy tales and musicals received this Ella Enchanted DVD for Christmas.

(Released by Miramax Home Entertainment and rated “PG” for some crude humor and language. Bonus DVD materials not rated and subject to change.)

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