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Featured Blu-ray Review: Ella Enchanted

October 13th, 2012

Ella Enchanted - Blu-ray Combo Pack - Buy from Amazon

Anne Hathaway played a princess in each of her first three wide releases; however, only Ella Enchanted was a proper fairytale. It also didn't do as well as the other two films did. Granted, live action kids movies, especially those aimed at girls, tend to struggle at the box office. Is this one of the better films in the genre? Should it have performed better? And will fans of the movie want to upgrade to the Blu-ray?

The Movie

We are introduced to the world of Ella Enchanted by a narrator / paperboy who explains that in fairytales, the world is filled with magic. We witness that first hand in the hamlet of Frell when baby Ella is visited by her fairygodmother, Lucinda. Lucinda has a reputation for giving the worst gifts and she lives up to it here, as she gives the gift of obedience. If someone tells Ella to do something, she has to do it, even if it is something she shouldn't be able to do. (Telling her to speed up will make her move at superhuman speed.)

Some time later, Ella's mother unfortunately passes away and her father remarries a rich socialite, Dame Olga, who has two daughters of her own, Hattie and Olive. Ella now has to deal with her curse while living with her evil step-family.

Meanwhile, we meet Prince Charmont, who is traveling with Prince Regent Edgar and Edgar's talking snake, Heston. Prince Char, as he's called by most, is about to become King. He's been in school for a while, which left the Prince Regent in charge. During this time, the relations between the humans and the ogres and the giants and the elves have deteriorated. Char is unaware of how bad it's gotten, so it is a bit of a shock when Ella and her friend, Areida, protest his appearance in Frell. Charmont's appearance is a short one, as his fan club chases him out of the town. There, he runs into Ella and the fact that Ella doesn't swoon when she meets him makes him very intrigued. Charmont wants to know more about Ella, but soon Hattie and Olive show up and Hattie tells Ella to go home.

Things take a turn for the worse for Ella shortly after that, when Hattie figures out her curse and begins using it to torment her. She's finally had enough of this curse and vows to have it removed. She gets help from her house fairy, Mandy, who gives Ella a magic talking book, Benny, to help find Lucinda. Very shortly along the way, she rescues an elf, Slannen. He wants to be a lawyer; however, the Prince Regent made a law that said all elves must be entertainers, so he's come to hate singing. She convinces him to come to the capital and argue in front of the prince for the right to become a lawyer.

It isn't long before Ella and Slannen are joined by Prince Charmont, who is trying to figure out why the once harmonious kingdom is dealing with such strife among the races. While traveling together, the pair start to develop feelings for each other. However, the prince wasn't traveling alone, as Heston was spying on him for the Prince Regent. Yes, the Prince Regent is a bad guy. That's not so much a spoiler as a requirement for this type of story. Going into details about the Prince Regent's evil plan is a spoiler, on the other hand, so we will stop the plot summary there.

Ella Enchanted is a cute film. It's not a great film and the movie tends to wink at the audience a little too much. It is clearly a very modern retelling of fairytales. While it is set in a medieval fantasy setting, the characters speak in a very modern way and their attitudes are a lot more modern. They reference a lot of modern things, like the morning paper or teen magazines. They use a lot of modern music. These references to modern pop culture is cute, but also used for some cheap laughs a few too many times. (The Bat-ox joke falls flat, for instance.) Anne Hathaway's charm does carry much of the film and the chemistry between her and Hugh Dancy is a major asset here. On the other hand, the film does come across as cheesy or rather cheap a few too many times, and that hurts the film's overall score. I think it is good enough that younger girls will like it, but it doesn't have a huge amount of crossover appeal. The best kids movies can be enjoyed by kids and adults equally. This is not true here, but at least parents won't cringe when they watch it with their kids.

The Extras

The Blu-ray is shovelware. The extras begin with an audio commentary track with the director, Tommy O'Haver, plus the two leads, Anne Hathaway and Hugh Dancy. There are 15 minutes of deleted and extended scenes, with optional audio commentary with Tommy O'Haver and Hugh Dancy. Up next is a 29-minute long making of featurette. There is also a 23-minute long red carpet featurette. There is a music video "It's Not Just Make-Believe". Finally there is are two DVD rom games on the DVD portion of the combo pack.

The technical presentation is only good. There are a lot of scenes with very bright colors and very deep blacks, but there are also scenes that don't have enough details and where there is banding. It's a significant step-up from the DVD, but not amazing. The audio is a little better with clear dialogue and good use of the surround sound system including the subwoofer. It's not overly active, but it is certainly better than most kids movies.

The Blu-ray combo pack costs just $12 on, which is a very good deal for this type of release.

The Verdict

Not everything works in Ella Enchanted, but enough does that it should entertain its target audience, while adults watching with their kids will be happy they choose this movie and not some of the other options out there. The Blu-ray Combo Pack is shovelware, but it is reasonably priced shovelware.

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Filed under: Video Review, Ella Enchanted, Steve Coogan, Hugh Dancy, Minnie Driver, Cary Elwes, Vivica Fox, Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Higham, Joanna Lumley, Jimi Mistry, Parminder Nagra, Lucy Punch, Aidan McArdle