Cinderella Party: Ella Enchanted

I don’t remember when I discovered Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted, but it was probably when I was in high school – maybe a junior or a senior, even… as the book only came out in 1997. Perhaps that is why the book is not as sacred to me as it is to some. I didn’t “grow up” with this story, by the time it was published and I got to read it, I was nearly grown.

I loved it, don’t get me wrong. It is a sweet, beautiful, magical story. But it wasn’t world-changing for me. Not like The Hobbit, or A Little Princess, or The Light Princess, or The Princess and the Goblin, or The Chronicles of Narnia, or A Wrinkle in Time.

Which is probably also why, unlike most people who love the book, I also absolutely adore the movie adaptation.

No, it isn’t anything like the book. The only thing the two stories have in common is the title, the basic family dynamic (Cinderella-style, Ella has a wicked stepmother and two spoiled, selfish stepsisters), and the fact that Ella was “blessed” at her birth by a well-meaning fairy godmother who gave her the “gift” of obedience. Faultless obedience. She has to obey everything she is told to do.

Obviously, this could easily turn into a living nightmare, as it basically takes free will out of the equation of the child’s life.

Other than that, the two stories are as dissimilar as the movie Frozen is to the fairy tale it was supposedly based on titled The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson.

I think it is probably because of the extremely enormous gap between the two stories that I can fully love and enjoy both of them. I see them as two completely different stories.

Ella Enchanted, the movie, is a hilarious, corny, cheesy romp through a world where there are Prince Charmont fan-clubs filled with silly teenage girls who like to collect pictures of the prince and swoon over every word he says, there are also giants and ogres and elves and other fairy-tale type people who are being severely oppressed by the regent holding the reins of the kingdom in his hands until Charmont comes of age. Travel with strong-minded, as-rebellious-as-she-can-be Ella as she sets out on a quest to find her fairy godmother and beg her to undo her gift. Watch as she argues with the prince, whom she has very little regard for, and discovers that there is more going on and more at stake in her world than a girl looking to reverse an unwanted blessing.

I love this movie. I can’t even really put my finger on why I love it. Part of it is because the movie doesn’t try to take itself too seriously. It is a fun jaunt through a silly fantasy realm, and it doesn’t try to be anything else. I enjoy the cornball humor of it: the elf who wants to be a lawyer and is disgruntled by the fact that a law has been passed that requires all elves to remain in the entertainment industry, the boyfriend of a godmother who has been turned into a book that can tell you anything about the kingdom you want to know (but can’t provide specific directions or a map), the scheming stepsisters who are the heads of the Prince Charmont Fan Club, the prince who just wants to get AWAY from his fan club… it’s just too delicious and silly not to love it to pieces.

I really like the costumes – especially Ella’s dresses, and her blue cloak. I want a cloak just like it! And her hair.

I also love that Anne Hathaway can sing, and that she sang all her own songs and did all her own dancing. My respect for her as an actress soared when I discovered that fact.

I love that the evil uncle is played by Cary Elwes, and that the directors and writers specifically stated that they chose him partially BECAUSE of his role as Westley in the Princess Bride.

I love that Ella is strong-willed and extremely capable, but also completely helpless if someone gives her an order. It makes her strong-willed and opinionated interactions with the prince both sweet and hilarious as she crosses mental swords with him on policy, and then subsequently needs to be saved from certain death because she cannot defend herself from the ogres who have ordered her to stand still.

I love the prince. He’s everything a prince should be.

But mostly, I just love that this movie is pure entertainment. It’s not deep or philosophical, it’s just meant to entertain and be funny, with a side of sweetness and romance. And it does those things very well.

If you want a meaningful Cinderella retelling that will steal your heart and soul – I recommend Sabrina. If you want a nearly perfect historical-fiction retelling of Cinderella – definitely don’t miss Ever After. But if you want pure extract of Silliness with a dash of magical flair that is also wholly clean – you can’t do better than Ella Enchanted.

~ jenelle

16 Comments

Deborah O'Carroll

You have officially made me like the Ella Enchanted movie more. *tips hat* I didn’t grow up on the book, per se, but I did really like the book, and I was rather distraught at the total lack of similarities between it and the movie, and the movie was just too weird and silly for me. BUT you’ve made me see it in a new light! :) And the prince is definitely awesome. ;)

I feel a similar way about the Howl’s Moving Castle book and the movie (which I got for Christmas! Yay!). I adore both versions, even though or perhaps BECAUSE they’re so different — it got far enough away that I couldn’t gripe about the “adaption”… it was just its own thing. (Plus the movie is kinda adorable.) So I see where you’re coming from! :D

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jenelle

Wow! I’m impressed! And delighted that I could persuade someone to see this movie in a different light. :)

Of course, I’m kind of biased towards any movie or show Cary Elwes has a part in… and I just can’t bring myself to believe that he’s a bad guy… even though he has played several different extremely convincing villains. He’ll always be “Farm Boy” to me!

I was sadly not able to make it all the way through the movie version of Howl’s Moving Castle (I was watching it with small people at the time – and they declared that the movie was “boring” and asked if we could watch something else). I don’t love the anime style, so that made it a bit more difficult for me to get into, as well. I will have to see if I can find a copy to finish it, however.

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Faith

I have to admit that I’ve seen Ella Enchanted countless times. It’s just one of those easy to watch movies – silly, fun and cute. Loved your review Jenelle :D

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Olivia

I love this review! As you know, I prefer the book, but you bring up a lot of good points. Like you said, the movie doesn’t really take itself seriously–which is nice! A lot of corny movies do try to be serious at the same time, but this one doesn’t, overmuch.

Aww, I love that last picture of Char and Ella! So sweet <3

Can we all just take a moment to appreciate the fact of Char? THE BOY IS LOVELY.

Awesome review! Really, really well-written. (Side note, which Sabrina do you prefer? :D Oh, and The Princess and the Goblin!!!)

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jenelle

Thanks!

I’ve only seen the Sabrina with Harrison Ford, so I’m kind of partial to that one… but I do love Audrey Hepburn, so that version is definitely on my must-watch list.

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Catherine

I loved your review – I’ve never read the book, but as I film I always thought it was hilarious! I especially love the songs, and just the overall cheesiness of it all :)

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Heidi

Thank you so much, Jenelle — what a fantastic review!! And okay, you’ve now officially made me want to see this…. Wow. :)

Soooo, I’ve read that the PG rating was partly because of the ogres. How inappropriate //are// they? Like about equivalent to the trolls in Frozen??

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jenelle

Aww, thanks!

Yeah, I’ve seen a couple of other people mention the ogres and their costumes or something being inappropriate? I am going to have to rewatch this one, because I’m ashamed to say that I have no idea what they’re talking about… and it’s usually pretty hard to slip something past me.

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hamlettethedame

I really enjoy movies that are simply out to have fun and entertain you. Which is probably why I do quite like this movie :-) Kind of like Mirror Mirror and Jack the Giant Slayer — they both have that same feel of “we’re just here to play, want to play with us?”

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jenelle

I haven’t seen Jack the Giant Slayer. But Mirror Mirror I remember being fun – a little weird, but fun. And Sean Bean is always a favorite of mine, so him showing up at the end was pretty awesome.

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hamlettethedame

Haha! Yes! A friend and I joke that it’s to make up for all the times Sean Bean dies in movies — in this one, he comes back to life just in time for the end instead! I’d like to see a whole series of movies where he just pops up at the end. “Not actually dead by the way, nice to see you,” very casual :-)

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Blessing Counter

YES!! I love Ella Enchanted! And doesn’t Anne Hathaway make the perfect Ella? She’s also great in Princess Diaries :)

Your review was lovely, Jenelle! Thanks for sharing! :)

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