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  Publicity Stills of "Happily N' Ever After"
(Courtesy from Shaw)

Genre: CG Animation
Director: Paul J. Bolger
Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Sigourney Weaver, Freddie Prinze Jr., George Carlin, Wallace Shawn, Andy Dick
RunTime: 1 hr 27 mins
Released By: Shaw
Rating: G
Official Website:

Opening Day: 8 March 2007


Inspired by the most beloved of fables, "Happily N'Ever After" is an animated satirical retelling of the classic story of Cinderella.

Once upon a time in Fairy Tale Land, the age-old balance between good and evil has been thrown out of whack. Frieda, Cinderella's power-mad stepmother, has formed an unholy alliance of evil to take on the good guys. With her own fairy tale spinning wildly out of control, Cinderella (a/k/a Ella) is forced to shed her damsel-in-distress trappings in order to seize control of her own destiny and lead the resistance without her Prince Charming.

In a world of happy endings gone wrong, the race for control of the kingdom is on, with the fate of the venerable storyline 'Happily N'Ever After' hanging in the balance.

Movie Review:

Lions Gate Films, armed with the team that produced Shrek and Shrek 2, embarked on a hip, contemporary retelling of fairy tale land. Essentially very familiar territory, all experience and expertise they had seemed to have gone right out of the window. In one word, Happily N’Ever After was torrid. Unhappily torrid. Caustic, annoyingly “smart-alecky” and full of cynical jokes poking fun at various fairy tale characters, Happily N’Ever After felt like a hotchpotch collection of forgettable punchlines by a creative team that mistakenly assumed that just because Shrek was funny, everything else they produce will probably be funny.

When an animation film begins with references like the Department of Fairy Tale Land Security and a barb about the nation of Canada, you know children below the age of 10 aren’t likely to be enjoying this film. Maybe Lions Gate Films should rate their films NFK – Not For Kids. Maybe they should rate it NF – Not Funny. It’s not the production team’s fault however that they had set such a high benchmark with Shrek.

The story is about Cinderella and her evil stepmother’s plans to usurp power in the kingdom of fairy tales. Sort of. The convolutedly written retelling loses attention from about the first minute, when it begins with the now stale hip, irreverent narrator introduction. In this satirical portrayal of the Cinderella story, we get introduced to an old wizard who watches fairy tales with a scale of good an evil, with happy endings dependent on the equilibrium of the scales. You must be raising your brows by now. I did too. Most of the plot developments turn out so contrived it seemed only to serve the purpose of fitting the ill-conceived humour and jokes into the movie.

A crackpot stepmother aside (who proved to be more cranky than intelligently scheming), we see many caricatured portrayals, like that of the Prince as a broad-chested, hair-brained blond jock. The film’s humour is devoid of subtlety, wit or any element of scripting quality. Half the time, the characters ramble on and on with lengthy, overly complicated jokes that leave the audience unamused more than anything else. In one scene, the Prince reads off a script and calls romantic Roman, Tic. He repeats it before understanding his mistake. So we’re suppose to think he’s a brainless beefcake? Very funny. The whole goes on in the same vein of a self-absorbed, clumsy film stuffed with crap-tacular jokes and gags put out by he characters and the narrator.

Happily N’Ever After should never have gone into production not to mention when you have voice ‘talents” like Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddy Prinze Jr. Maybe that was some foreboding but the only bright sport was perhaps Sigourney Weaver, who stretches her voice-over talent so well you’d feel she was totally underused in the Alien franchise. She voices the hysterical and cranky Frieda, Cinderella’s stepmother, with much emotional and vocal dexterity, only to be let down by a deplorable script.

Many production studios reach a point where their introduction pitch becomes a creaking crutch that exposes the inadequacy of their latest product (From the producers of Die Hard… From the producers of Speed… anyone?) It’s impossible not to love Shrek and, to a lesser degree, perhaps Shrek 2. But it pains one to imagine how Happily N’Ever’s production team has gone the way of big budget action film production house failures where past reputation no longer guarantees a good upcoming product. Maybe Dreamworks might have aced this film, we wouldn’t know, but this anglo-germanic Lions Gate production horribly fell short of expectations.

I don’t want to be rolling my eyes in distrust the next time I hear “From the producers of Shrek and Shrek 2”, because that is some good reputation and foundation. But when Happily N’Ever After seemed so much like a collection of insider jokes and adult ramblings by the production team happy to indulge in their own hilarity, it’s hard not to. Disney’s Valiant was similarly laboriously unfunny, but at least that film was earnest, likeable (without the adult sarcasm and caustic humour) and most importantly, suitable for the kids.

Remember times in school when a seemingly hilarious joke with your best pals turn absurdly flat no matter how you best you retell it to anyone else? Happily N’Ever After is a tiresome, draggy film that’s absolutely full of them.

Movie Rating:

( Happily Never After. The End. *phew, finally*)

Review by Daniel Lim

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