When five production entities come on and all the producers get billed before the title and the cast, it's a bad sign. Just how troubled was this production? It's been on the books for years but seriously, when you've got Buffy, lead with Buffy.
Review: Happily N'Ever After
The latest CGI animated revisionist fairy tale features the Cinderella story taken over by the wicked stepmother. See, the Department of Fairytaleland Security maintains the balance between good and evil to insure happy endings. When Stepmother (Sigourney Weaver) finds out, she tips the scales so Ella (Sarah Michelle Gellar) does not hook up with Prince Charming (Patrick Warburton, of course). She and Rick the cook (Freddie Prinze., Jr.) must find the prince and stop the stepmother to set all the fairy tales back in order. George Carlin provides a voice for four lines, and one of them is simply, "Good."
Now, this isn't unwatchable or boring. Not like Everyone's Hero, Open Season or Over the Hedge. But it's still so done. Maybe if it were the first fairy tale movie, but even so it's not that sophisticated. Certainly coming after the Shreks and even Hoodwinked had more clever takes on fairy tales.
There are moments that suggest brilliance. In once scene, Rick finds that the villains treat him nicer than the "good guys." Could the movie be suggesting that those outside the norm aren't really the bad guys? Nah, they start chasing and fighting. Rick suggests to Ella early on that she should just say no to her chores, which would change the storyline without magical meddling. But, she blows him off and continues. The fact that Rick exists at all begs the question, are there more fairy tales with more fitting matches than the obvious ones? No, just this one.
All the fairy tale jokes are obvious. They actually announce who the characters are and then make stereotypical jokes about their "things." There are lots of dandruff and split ends jokes about Rapunzel. And those homeland security, elections and evildoer references aren't edgy. They're just obvious.
Remember how Shrek didn't really call attention to their characters? They just appeared and you recognized them? And they had fun with Pinocchio's lying or the three pigs' work ethics, but didn't dumb it down? Even Hoodwinked with its CSI take on a fairy tale "crime" had something to it.
Happily N'Ever After devolves into a generic quest. They look for a savior, fight off monsters, confront the villain. No real relationship develops between Ella and Rick. She just changes her mind.
It's watchable because at least they have a concept about changing traditional stories. There are some decent spoofy twists and it moves. It will be easier to sit through with your kids than many of last year's slew. But there's also no reason it couldn't have been massively better.