10 March 2007 | DICK STEEL
A Nutshell Review: Happily N'ever After
Happily N'ever After is a play on the usual and expected ending of all fairy tales, where the guy will get the girl, defeat the evil queen/king, and ride off into the sunset. What happens after that, frankly, nobody cares, as it's as perfect an ending as it can possibly be.
The storyline here takes a peek into what can actually go wrong, if "happily ever after" gets traded for "happily never after". Fate as it seems, in Fairy Tale Land, is managed in a castle top by a caretaker wizard (George Carlin) and his two bumbling helpers Mambo (Andy Dick) and Monk (Wallace Shawn). In their lair, there's the book of fairy tales which dictates the lives of everyone in the land, a remote controlled looking glass for that big-brother peep into their lives, and a set of scales, which can be tipped into Good or Bad directions to influence the proceedings of the fairytale.
Central to the plot, despite a host of other familiar and identifiable tales like Sleeping Beauty and Little Red Riding Hood, is that of Cinderella's. Ella (as she is known here, voiced by Sarah Michelle Gellar) as usual is being bullied by her wicked stepmother (aren't they always), voiced by Sigourney Weaver, and ugly stepsisters (Kath Soucie and Jill Talley), and we encounter the same scenario about going to the Prince's (Patrick Warburton) ball, fairy godmother, pumpkin coach, glass slippers and all. Only that this time, the spotlight is put on the Prince's kitchen helper Rick (Freddie Prinze Jr), the chief protagonist and narrator of the story.
Rick secretly loves Ella, and cannot fathom why the entire kingdom is smitten with the buffoon of a prince charming - Prince Humperdink. It seems to copy the formula set out by Shrek, that if you have a prince, making him a less than perfect specimen character-wise, to draw out the laughs. In the presence of his incompetence, Rick and Ella gotta combine forces to save their land and restore order when Ella's stepmother gains control over the wizard's staff and lair. That about sums up the plot.
Delivery wise, the animation looked rather uninspiring. 3D animated movies have reached a certain threshold, and no longer commands the wows. It's not that it isn't gorgeous, just not fantastically so. The voice talents are relatively unknowns, except for the leads, and seemed to have gone the opposite direction to the mantra of filling the movie with as many recognizable stars as possible, in order to put attention to the story and dialogue. Sadly, the story's rather plain, with an expected ending, and the dialogue, lacking in wit and spunk. There are scenes which try to be funny, but just fall flat.
In an animated movie where fairy tale characters run amok, the movie coasts along without much madness infused. But definitely easy enough for its intended target audience - the children - to understand and enjoy.