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Ella Enchanted (Blu-ray Review)

Ella-EnchantedModern made fairy tale movies don’t come all too often.  And ones made for everyone in the family and kid friendly even rarer.  In 2004, Miramax tried their best, delivering Ella Enchanted.  The film works as a star vehicle for the up and coming (at the time) Anne Hathaway.  It was based off a popular young adult book with which I’m not familiar.  From my research, the film is apparently a bit of a departure from the book, but keeps the genuine idea and spirit intact.  The story of which is basically one inspired from another classic fairy tale but that’s just a small bit of its base.  It really is its own thing when it’s all said and done.  And its star, Hathaway, is quite her charming self.  She gets to display talents in a fair range of physicality (slapstick) and her musical dynamics in singing.  Unfortunately for Miramax, this film did not perform as well as Hathaway at the box office.  But, maybe this is still a catalog title for young ones and fairy tale enthusiast to enjoy.

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Film

Ella Enchanted riffs on the old tale of Cinderella, adding some twists and more adventure to it.  This time, Ella is (sigh) enchanted at birth by a fairy making her susceptible to obeying everyone’s command.  This secret is kept in the family as it could be dangerous to those who would take advantage of said ability.  When her father plans to remarry, Ella is given two potential step sisters who are pretty vile and learn of her enchantment.  Ella sets off on a journey to find the fairy who cast this upon her and along the way meets Prince Char who is heir to the throne and the heartthrob of all the women in the kingdom.  Only Char is ignorant to the evil ruling of his uncle, Sir Edgar, learning along the way that he needs to make changes when he takes the throne.

There aren’t a whole lot of movies in this kind of fairy tale/fantasy/family subgenre.  Or at least, they don’t make them as much anymore.  When I was growing up my generation had films like The Princess Bride, The Neverending Story and Willow taking us to these far away lands.  Ella Enchanted came at a time where there were none.  And those of us used to it had to see it with much older eyes when viewing it for the first time.  The older films mentioned get the benefit of the doubt from my generation as we saw them as a larger more adventurous escape.  Some of them were solid movies, but a lot of them will get a bit of a pass due our childhood nostalgia or seeing the film with amazement in our youthful eyes.

I wasn’t particularly taken, per se, with Ella Enchanted.  I thought it was ok.  But I also was able to see that I wasn’t the appropriate age or at the right time in my life for a film like that to amaze me and have a bigger impact.  It’s a bit over-charming and plenty clichéd with the kind of things we expect from this genre.  Most of the performances are set at a camp level and it really works for what they’re going for.  It’s a very straightforward tale and you can tell where it’s headed at every turn.

The film has some decent effects work and provides some fun musical numbers.  One of my complaints is that there weren’t enough musical numbers.  The film seemed to have so much fun and actually really delivered when it did go for the song and dance, why couldn’t there be more.  If you’re going to be a musical, be a musical.  Anne Hathaway can sing, so let her.  Was it too much for the production to pay for a couple more pop songs for them to cover?  The highlight song definitely was a take on “Somebody To Love” by Queen.  I just felt the film could have been a bit more fun if there was another musical number or two mixed in and paced accordingly.  It feels forever before we get a song and then takes just as long for the next to pop up.

Ella Enchanted on its own is ok if you like that sort of thing (I was big Princess Bride fan in my day).  Taken as a family film watching with your kids, it’s probably a very good time.  They’re definitely going to enjoy this.  It’s a live action feel-good “fun for the whole family” movie that could’ve been a little bit better had they gone all out with the musical aspect.  As it is though, it’s decent.  Adults will find some enjoyment while their kids have a grand time.

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Video

Lionsgate’s 1080p MPEG-4 AVC video is merely ok.  At many times it feels like an upconvert from a DVD master.  Things are clear, but not very sharp.  There are a few low lit scenes in the dark that definitely resemble some poor HD quality in the 1.85:1 frame.  Also the HD transfer of this makes some of the blue screen work look really fake.  The CG creatures and such look really good though.  For the most part it’s all right.  I couldn’t help but think how flat it looked.  This is a family fairy tale/fantasy that should look alive and have colors popping and making its world look grand.  As it is though, the detail is very low and it looks a little too much like a rougher indie film than a big time fairy tale.  This is the best this movie has looked, but I can’t help but think it could look a lot better.

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Audio

The lossless DTS-MA 5.1 really makes up where the picture is lacking.  Voices are nice and crystal clear.  Everything is really crisp.  The musical numbers feel like a grand performance.  There is good utilization of all the speakers helping to transport you to this fairy tale world.  The foley effects are fun and perfectly mixed.  They are not a distraction.  Lionsgate has really done a grand job producing this track.

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Extras

There are some solid, yet repetitive bonus featurettes on the disc.  Two of them run long and pretty much contain all the same interviews and clips.  All the material is in standard definition, likely just ported over from the previous DVD release.  The release also comes with a DVD copy of the movie with all the same feature.

  • Feature Commentary with Director Tommy O’Haver and Actors Anne Hathaway and Hugh Dancy – The commentary is a bit talky and has a light brush over about the technicalities of filmmaking and effects.  If you’re a fan of any of the folks on the commentary or a big fan of the film its worth a listen.
  • Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary with Director Tommy O’Haver and Actor Hugh Dancy (9:37) – Some deleted scenes from the film including one from the end.  Surprisingly Anne Hathaway didn’t stay for these.
  • Extended Scenes with Optional Commentary with Director Tommy O’Haver and Actor Hugh Dancy (5:22) – 4 longer versions of some scenes already in the film that Anne Hathaway couldn’t stay to record comments on.
  • The Magical World of Ella Enchanted (28:33) – A behind the scenes pre-release “making of” special hosted by Anne Hathaway and Hugh Dancy.  It features fairly light and safe thoughts about making the film.
  • Ella Enchanted Red Carpet Premiere Special (23:14) – Another pre-release promotional short, this time hosted by Jesse McCartney and Kari Kimmel.  While this one focuses a little more on the music and has some red carpet interviews, it’s a lot of the same thoughts and interviews as the previous featurette.  When you start this one up its pretty much the exact same intro, making you feel like you actually selected the wrong item or they accidentally put the same feature on the disc twice.
  • Music Video “It’s Not Just Make Believe” Performed by Kari Kimmel (3:07) – I know soundtrack videos usually aren’t much, but this reeks of cheapness.  This was likely made in an hour on Saturday at Kari Kimmel’s parents’ house.

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Summary

Ella Enchanted is a solid little movie that could very delight your family (if you’ve got some really young ones) on a stay-in movie night.  There’s some real enjoyment in the musical numbers, just not enough.  Lionsgate presents it with a good enough display and great audio to transport you to Ella’s world.  There are also enough supplements to give you a little more fun outside the movie.  If you’re looking for something a little more modern in the fairy tale fantasy adventure realm to drop on your kids, this wouldn’t be a bad choice.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

1 Response to “Ella Enchanted (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Brian White

    This seems better than Troll 2 already?!