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Ella Enchanted Reviews

Loyal fans of Gail Carson Levine's acclaimed children's novel may be put off at first by the ways this amusing fairy tale deviates from the original, but the film's lush scenery and sharp modern twists cast a powerful spell. The misguided fairy Lucinda (Vivica A. Fox) curses Ella of Frell (Anne Hathaway) at birth with the gift of obedience. As a spirited teenager, she tries to keep her compliant ways to herself, both for her own safety and because her late mother ordered her to. But Ella's father (Patrick Bergin) remarries and his new wife, the self-important and overly-batoxed (for the uninitiated, that's bat feces and ox blood) Dame Olga (Joanna Lumley), puts Ella's secret in jeopardy. Olga's equally overbearing daughters, Hattie (Lucy Punch) and Olive (Jennifer Higham), catch on to their new stepsister's dutiful ways and promptly start bossing poor Ella around. Forced to obey, Ella is soon destroying her relationship with best friend Areida (Parminder Nagra), doing all the household chores and even shoplifting on their behalf. Disgusted by their antics, Ella formulates a desperate plan to find Lucinda, whom she hopes will reverse the spell. She tells only Mandy (Minnie Driver) — the loyal nursemaid who witnessed Lucinda's gift-giving-gone-wrong — and heads out into the forest under cover of night. Ella saves a friendly elf (Aidan McArdle) and is in turn saved from famished ogres by the dashing and much sought-after Prince Charmont (Hugh Dancy). Initially dismayed by the prince's obliviousness to his uncle's (Cary Elwes) mistreatment of his non-human subjects, Ella soon realizes he's just misguided and falls in love. But Ella's acquiescence could cause a great deal of trouble to the future king, so she must summon every ounce of intelligence and pluck at her disposal to overcome her tainted gift. As befits its fairy-tale nature, this gently instructive tale is completely predictable, and the surfeit of familiar supporting players leaves too many of them with too little to do. But it seems churlish to quibble when the film's assets include a strong sense of humor, a healthy dose of girl power and a smartly chosen set of influences, including THE PRINCESS BRIDE (1987), SHREK (2001) and THE PRINCESS DIARIES (2001), which also starred Hathaway. Elwes is a perfectly devilish — but not-too scary — evildoer, and Hathaway's infectious charm and easy chemistry with the attractive Dancy more than compensate for minor liabilities like the uneven tone director Tommy O'Haver establishes. Audiences, especially preteens, will be enchanted by Ella.