A Socialist Cinderella
Release Date: April 09, 2004
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Hugh Dancy,
Cary Elwes, Minnie Driver,
Vivica A. Fox, and Joanna
Audience: Children and teenagers
Rating: PG for some crude humor and
Runtime: 94 minutes
Distributor: Miramax Films/Buena Vista/Walt
Director: Tommy O'Haver
Producer: Jane Startz
PRODUCER: Su Armstrong
Writer: Laurie Craig, Karen McCullah
Lutz, and Kirsten Smith BASED
ON THE NOVEL BY: Gail Carson
Address Comments To:Bob and Harvey Weinstein
375 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10013
Phone: (323) 822-4100 and (212) 941-3800
Fax: (212) 941-3846
The movie opens with Ella’s irresponsible fairy godmother casting an obedience spell on her. Whenever anyone tells her to do something, she does it immediately. This presents a problem when Ella’s mother dies and her father remarries. Unhappily for Ella, her new stepmother comes with two bratty stepsisters who soon learn the secret of controlling her. Ella sets out to find her fairy godmother and get the spell reversed, but she becomes entangled in a plot by Prince Char’s evil uncle to kill the prince and seize the throne.
What works for this movie is Anne Hathaway. As Ella, she acts with an effortlessness that never seems lazy or stagey. He character comes across as natural and very likeable. She is always believable, even when the script disservices her with simply standard material.
Although the story is set in the days of carriages and castles, the characters speak as if they are contemporary, and many of the cultural and political conflicts will be recognizeable to today’s audiences. This uniquely postmodern trick allows the familiar premise – young girl is abused by her stepsisters and stepmother until she accidentally seduces the prince and escapes their bondage – to become a political allegory. The movie seems most concerned with race and class (ogres, giants, and elves represent various minorities), but there are slight suggestions of a feminist message, although it is totally reversed in the movie’s denouement.
The movie advances its political messages by painting Ella as a dissenter. She stages rallies and protests and frequently cites her political beliefs, which, translated from the metaphor, are socialist-leaning. Ella is also backbendingly kind and likeable (aside from the fact that she is accommodating, which she cannot avoid due to a spell cast on her). On the other hand, Ella’s stepsisters love the corrupt king and the policies that Ella thinks unjust. They are also greedy and shallow. These characters morph into caricatures, with Ella representing “progressiveness” and her stepsisters representing organized greed.
Political messages choke the movie and make it hard to enjoy on other levels. By the movie’s final fifth, however, the story turns rather conventional, as Ella and the prince’s love triumphs over the evil king, and the two live “happily ever after.”
ELLA ENCHANTED had great potential to be involving and interesting for children, but spends more time advancing a socialist political message than entertaining them. Once the story kicks into high gear, it becomes very grim – the uncle is revealed to be a murderer, and the heroine is nearly forced to kill her love, the young prince. What works for the film is Anne Hathaway, the star of THE PRINCESS DIARIES. As Ella, she comes across as natural and very likeable. What doesn’t work are the anti-capitalist, politically correct, socialist messages embedded in the story.