Mixing together the whimsical humor of 'The Princess Bride' and the self-aware storybook skewering of 'Shrek,' 'Ella Enchanted' comes away with a slightly dumber version of both. It isn't all bad, though. There are some witty observations, a few funny scenes, and overall it's very family-friendly. The problem is 'Ella Enchanted' stops and starts so many times it never quite embraces the very thing it's trying to achieve. Plus, ending your movie with an ambiguous musical number just for musical number's sake really sheds unwanted light on how thin the movie's premise was to begin with.
Ella (Anne Hathaway) lives in a fanciful world full of ogres, elves, and all manner of mythical creatures. All you have to do is think live-action 'Shrek' and you'll get the gist of where Ella lives. When she was born, an obnoxious fairy came along and bestowed an unwelcome gift on her. This is one of the more witty parts of the movie, since it's assumed that all fairy blessings are magically amazing. Well, that's what storybooks have led us to believe anyway. The fairy blesses Ella with unfettered obedience to everything. As you might have figured out, doing whatever you're told every single time, at that very second, would be something more of a curse. She's essentially at the whim of anyone who knows her secret. A few carefully placed commands and Ella could easily be transformed into the most obedient slave. As you may have guessed, Ella hates her "gift."
The kingdom where Ella resides is replete with political upheaval. Ella finds herself at odds with the politics of the king and his nephew who is soon to become king. They've enslaved the giants and passed laws that confine elves to only three occupations, "singing, dancing, or tomfoolery." These are the tiny pleasures hidden inside this clunky comedy. There are a few laughs in here for sure, except instead of embracing the smartly satirical 'Ella Enchanted' embraces mostly lowest common-denominator type of humor. Have you always wanted to know what happens if a giant farts on an elf? Well, okay, that does sound pretty funny and could've been accomplished in a clever way. Instead, the movie decides a cloud of green CGI gas is the way to go.
More problems abound when you start to think about the gaping plot holes in the movie's logic. If someone tells Ella to do something, she must do it. Although at times, if someone then says something else, she in turn does that thing instead. This logic doesn't continue through the end of the film where the entire climax of the movie hinges on the fact that the entire dilemma could've been solved by someone telling her not to do what she'd already been told to do.
I must admit that the movie has its charms, however. Beneath the chintzy special effects and the far-too-obvious kiddie jokes, 'Ella Enchanted' is hiding a clever movie underneath its thin surface. In the end, though, it's a movie made for kids that won't entirely bore their parents to death.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a Miramax/Lionsgate release. It's been packaged in a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack. They're packaged in a standard eco-friendly Blu-ray keepcase and labeled as being Region A compliant.
Lionsgate has provided a serviceable transfer that has a few problems embedded in its 1080p image. Overall, the movie looks rather soft. There are also some technical problems that we'll get to a little later on.
Speaking on the softness of the picture, it seems to be whenever we have mid- to long-range shots. As the camera pans back detail is subsequently lost and obscured. Faces lose definition, edges lose resolution, and white light bleeds through other solid images on screen. Close-ups do feature a lot of detail, though. Although, along with that detail comes the fact that the movie's low-budget green screen effects are sorely hampered by the clarity of HD. Most of the green screen scenes – the elf and giant towns particularly – are really hard to watch since they look so badly done.
Many of the green screen scenes provide yet another problem: banding. Banding runs rampant here. Backgrounds which were digitally inserted later in the process showcase very noticeable banding artifacts that will surely detract from viewing. It isn't a one-and-done type of thing, either. The problem persists throughout the film. With that said, colors are really well resolved providing a richly colorful fantasy world. The opening shot of Ella's house sports very strong primaries. It's just that the varied and beautiful color palette cannot cover up the noticeable drawbacks of this presentation.
Lionsgate has provided a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that, for the most part, delivers. Clarity and fidelity are nicely defined throughout the proceedings. Dialogue is clear and delivered in the center speaker. The front speakers capture directional effects, like the thundering footsteps of approaching trolls, easily.
The rear speakers are pretty active also. There are a few dust-ups in the movie where Ella and her band of friends are fighting off the king's guards or hungry ogres, and the rear speakers harness those scenes provide some eclectic ambient sound. LFE is fairly deep whenever giants take booming steps entering a room. The music in the movie's various musical scenes is clearly supplied through the entire soundfield. While this audio mix won't really wow anyone out there, it does provide for an easily immersive listening environment.
'Ella Enchanted' has its moments of clever wittiness, but can't seem to pull itself out of the fart-and-poop-joke funk that many movies aimed at kids seem to wallow in. Its self-awarness does provide for some pretty funny moments of observational humor, the kids will likely enjoy it, and parents most likely won't fall asleep. It's worth a look in case your kids are really into funny fairy tales.