Happily N'ever After

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STUDIO: Lionsgate
MSRP: $28.98
RATED: PG
RUNNING TIME: 87 Minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES:
Feature Commentary w/ director
"Making-of" featurettes
Deleted scenes and alternate ending
• Games

The
Pitch

"It’s
Witches Abroad meets Shrek!"

The
Humans

Sarah
Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr., Sigourney Weaver, Wallace Shawn,
Patrick Warburton, George Carlin.

The
Nutshell

The
world of fairy tales has no room for free will. In an ivory tower, a
wizard (Carlin) watches over a set of magical scales, its two pans
labeled "Good" and "Evil." With the merest change
in the balance, the stories shift from their familiar paths and cross
into territory unknown. When an evil stepmother (Weaver) takes
control of the scales, the lands of Happily Ever After blacken in her
mad fury. Only one person can stop her: a mostly-liberated woman
named Cinderella (Gellar.) And a kitchen-boy who loves her (Prinze.)
And a couple of weird little homonculi. And a tactical strike force
of high-metabolism dwarves.


"You’ll never amount to anything, Z!"

The
Lowdown

I
can get carried away by a good, original concept in a story, even if
the execution strays into more well-established ruts of plot. Happily
N’ever After

(I fucking hate that apostrophe) has a great concept. How can you
maintain familiarity with a host of beloved stories while still
telling your own, and resisting the urge to stray into the
pop-culture pastiche of the
Shrek
movies? Impose a metaphysical engine on the Grimm collection!

I
love metaphysical engines.

The
result is a story that earns my instant affection. It also helps that
the sole motivation for much of the action is simple boredom. The
characters in these stories (those who are aware that they’re trapped
in stories, anyway) are weary of the same events unfolding with the
same endings, the same fates and dooms and unfair treatment of
villains. It may not be as instantly compelling a reason for a plot
to get rolling as, say, wanting to reclaim a swamp, but it strikes me
as more authentic. I know I’m not the only one who occasionally
sympathizes with the villains in stories. They get a lot of tough
breaks, sometimes just because they’re on the wrong side of the
imaginary line. Now, imagine if one of those villains had to relive
the same failures eternally, and then, one day, suddenly became aware
of it…


The Big Book of Witty Ways to Avoid Assassinations

I
love it. Unfortunately, these ruminations on story are the equivalent
of my intercepting the ball and running with it. Very little of the
plot is devoted to expanding on these ideas. Even less of the
character work bends toward the unfairness of the whole mystical
setup. Instead, the movie concerns its too-brief running time with
characters of a less compelling (and occasionally baffling) nature,
and plot sequences that take a less interesting tangent from the
promise of the setup.

The
most baffling character? Cinderella. There are two protagonists in
the story: she is one, and the kitchen-hand who dotes on her is the
other. The problem I have that Cinderella is written as something of
a feminist, but poorly. She’s a watered-down princess, strong-willed,
but weak in the knees. She fawns over the handsome prince (Warburton,
who, as usual, completely steals the show,) but the moral running
parallel is that a girl doesn’t need a handsome prince to rescue her.
The script all but comes out and says so. Which makes it all the more
confusing when toes are trodden upon in order to let Cinderella be
rescued by the kitchen boy. You don’t need a prince, little girls;
you can do it yourself! If you haven’t managed to wrap any spineless
boys around your pinky, yet, that is.


"Give ‘em fucking drums in the deep, boys!"

There’s
a lot of fun to be had in
Happily
N’ever After
‘s
package. It’s got the air of slapdash execution, but that results in
a plot with no dead weight for all its hasty leaping from event to
event. It’s over too quickly, and there’s no satisfaction to by had
in any of the character arcs; but, come on… Metaphysical engines!

The
Package

Most
of the bonuses are for the kidlings. There’s an alternate ending, a
few deleted scenes that pad out the second act, and three
behind-the-scenes featurettes: "Journey of the Characters in the
Enchanted Forest," "Creating the Happily Story: Bringing
N’ever After to Life," and "From Story Board to Fairy Tale:
A Comparison."

Director
Paul J. Bolger offers an entertaining, but none too insightful,
commentary track. The disc rounds out with five games of limited
interactivity: "Choose Your Own Fairy Tale Ending," "Munk’s
Fairy Tale Fix," "Mambo and Munk’s Magical Matchmaker,"
"Mambo’s Memory Mix-up," and "Create Your Own Witch’s
Broom." Nope, not brew,
but
broom. Also known
as
hog.

6
out of 10