a critiQal film review Happily N’Ever After (2007)

Plot: When her wicked stepmother Frieda (Weaver) takes over Fairy Tale Land and starts tipping the scales of good and evil in the bad guys' favor, Cinderella (Gellar), along with her friend Rick (Prinze), must do whatever she can to find the Prince (Warburton) and set the scales back to normal - or she'll never get her Happily Ever After.

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758 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 47s)

Since we are both big fans of animated films, we try to see every animated picture that we hear about. So, when we found out the latest, Happily N’Ever After had hit DVD, we couldn’t wait to check it out.

While we had seen a preview back in January, we hadn’t heard much about Happily N’Ever After since. It seemed to rush through theaters, and it seemed like no one actually went to see it. So, we were a little worried. Was it really that bad, or is January just not the right time for animation?

Happily N’Ever After, as it turns out, is another one of those “couple” movies. You know, the films Hollywood couples make together to show they care (or something). And we all know how those films usually end up (Gigli, etc.). With this film, Hollywood couple Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr. try to make it work with a different approach – they go animated.

While the main story is rather simplistic, the two of them do a halfway decent job of actually voice acting, rather than just cooing at each other for all of Happily N’Ever After. They also have a great back-up cast, including George Carlin and Sigourney Weaver, with Patrick Warburton, Andy Dick and Wallace Shawn (“Inconceivable!”) thrown in for laughs.

Patrick Warburton almost steals the show in Happily N’Ever After as the incredibly simple-minded Prince. While he’s supposed to be there just to show Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Cinderella that looks aren’t everything, Patrick Warburton – an old pro at voice acting by this point – does his best to turn the Prince into as hilarious a character as Kronk in The Emperor’s New Groove (2000).

Unfortunately, despite the stellar back-up cast, Happily N’Ever After never really gets off the ground, partly due to the rather boxy animation. While viewers these days are used to Pixar and Dreamworks type of animation, this Vanguard animation is not even in the same ballpark. Instead of the awe-inducing animation viewers are now used to, viewers are presented with rather boxy and shiny characters that seem to have come straight from a Saturday morning cartoon.

With the viewer already distanced somewhat by the animation, the filmmakers then decide to make another blunder – they aim the story in Happily N’Ever After for 5-year olds. While they have a great idea (the bad guys win in fairy tales!), they never use it to their full advantage. They never really try to build up any tension whatsoever, and the viewer is never in doubt as to the outcome, right from the first minute of the film.

And then there’s the whole “turn Rick bad” subplot in Happily N’Ever After. Why is that even in here? Because they just needed to fill some time? From the very first moment this is brought up, the viewer drifts off. They know it’s not going to happen, so they feel a little insulted the filmmakers would even mention it. How stupid do they think their viewers are?

Since the viewer already knows how it’s going to end, and the animation isn’t any great shakes, why would they stick around for Happily N’Ever After? It’s gotta be because of the humor, right? Unfortunately, no. Since viewers are already having trouble care anything about the film, Andy Dick’s grating voice is the last straw. Since he’s supposed to be most of the comic relief for the film, the viewer groans and just moves on.

There are a couple of comedic moments in Happily N’Ever After (aside from Warburton’s Prince), mostly centered around Rumpelstiltskin, voiced by Michael McShane. With the evil tipped in his balance, he actually manages to take the baby. But, once he gets it, he has no idea what to do with it, and carries it around with him wherever he goes.

This type of thing would have made Happily N’Ever After much more interesting. What would happen if the bad guys won – and then didn’t know what to do with their success? Unfortunately, Rumpelstiltskin is one of the only really creative ideas in the whole show.

If the voice acting hadn’t been done by well-known names, the viewer would expect Happily N’Ever After to have shown up on an old episode of a CBS Storybreak” (TV) type of show. Good for a free viewing by kids on Saturday morning, but not worth spending a dime on.

Even the young kids will probably get bored with Happily N’Ever After after a few viewings, despite Patrick Warburton and Michael McShane’s best efforts.

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