Perhaps one of the most enduring of all the fairy tales is CINDERELLA. This classic story of a poor young girl who manages to catch the attention of a prince has been the source of countless motion pictures, from out and out adaptations including the Disney animated version, THE GLASS SLIPPER, EVER AFTER, ELLA ENCHANTED, to name but a few. So the idea of possibly turning the story on its head sounded appealing.
And indeed, there's a germ of great idea in the animated movie HAPPILY N'EVER AFTER, but unfortunately it is not fully realized. The screenplay is credited to Ivy League grad Rob Moreland. His premise is that all the fairy tales that we've come to know and love are watched over by a sort of guardian wizard (voiced by George Carlin). Along with his two assistants, the pig-like Munk (Wallace Shawn) and the cat-like Mambo (Andy Dick), he maintains the balance on the scales of good and evil, so that each story turns out just as expected.
For no real reason, the movie starts after Ella's wicked stepmother Freida (Sigourney Weaver) has taken power and the narrator Rick (Freddie Prinze Jr.), a servant of the Prince (Patrick Warburton) fills us in on how things got so out of hand. It seems that instead of the story proceeding normally, the Wizard went on vacation leaving Munk and Mambo in charge. Freida managed to find them and steal away the wizard's staff, thus giving her the power to alter the stories, from letting the wolf eat Little Red Riding Hood to stopping Ella (Sarah Michelle Gellar) from marrying the Prince, and so on.
Ella is convinced the Prince can save the day and she tries to enlist Rick's aid. (What she cannot see, though, is that Rick is in love with her.) He pushes her away and she sets off on her own, encountering Munk and Mambo. Rick later has second thoughts after he overhears Freida's plans and sets out to locate the Prince and/or save the day on his own. Of course, despite the title, things do end up nicely.
The CGI animation is third-rate and unimaginative. The screenplay isn't nearly as funny as it thinks it is (although there are a couple of amusing lines, mostly delivered by either Dick or Shawn). In short, HAPPILY N'EVER AFTER is a disappointment. It's trying to put a new spin on an old tale but in the wake of SHREK and other films, it doesn't work. Parents would do well to skip this one.
Rating: D+ MPAA Rating: PG for some mild action and rude humor Running time: 85 mins.