Ella Enchanted

Starring Anne Hathaway, Joanna Lumley, Hugh Dancy. Directed by Tommy O'Haver
Running Time: 96 mins
Rated: Rated PG
Ella Enchanted is a comic fantasy, and it lives up to its name. It is an enchanting film.

At her birth the fairies give Ella of Frell (Hathaway) a special gift - she cannot be disobedient. For the most part this gift causes her very little trouble until her father (Patrick Bergin) remarries the perfectly nasty Dame Olga (Lumley) and inherits two dreadful stepsisters, Hattie (Lucy Punch) and Olive (Jennifer Higham). They soon discover Ella's secret and force her to do the most dangerous and ridiculous things for their amusement.

Despondent, Ella sets off to find the fairy who can break the spell of perfect obedience. On the way she literarily runs into the handsome and self absorbed Prince Char (Hugh Dancy), star from the front covers of "Medieval Teen'. The meeting does not go well. Ella continues her search until an entrepreneurial Elf (Aidan McArdle) takes her in hand and leads her to the fairy she seeks, and to the man who is seeking her.

Based on the acclaimed teen novel of the same name by Gail Carson Levine, Ella Enchanted is a tongue-in-cheek, contemporary reworking of Cinderella. And for the most part it works.

Director Tommy O'Haver, whose previous films have not been on this scale, rises to the occasion with flair. Fusing styles and genres is a high wire act and he succeeds admirably.

Anne Hathaway, star of The Princess Diaries I and II, looks a little old for this part, but has a good comic style about her. Joanna Lumley, of Absolutely Fabulous fame, is every inch the terrible stepmother in the best panto tradition, while Aidan McArdle's Elf and Hugh Dancy's Prince Char add an impish narrator in one case, and a touching love interest in the other.

In parts Ella Enchanted is crude and rough around the edges, but as study in the post-modern take on Cinderella, it is warm, light and enjoyable entertainment.

Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the director of the Australian Catholic Film Office.

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