DVD Release Date:  May 1, 2007
Theatrical Release Date:  January 5, 2007
Rating:  PG (for mild action and some rude humor)
Genre:  Animation
Run Time:  85 min.
Director:  Paul J. Bolger
Actors:  George Carlin, John DiMaggio, Andy Dick, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Lisa Kaplan, Jill Talley, Freddie Prinze, Jr., Wallace Shawn, Kath Soucie, Patrick Warburton and Sigourney Weaver

The makers of  Shrek now bring us another feature-length animation, Happily N'Ever After, a twist on the old Cinderella story. With similar animation to Shrek, including broad-shouldered, long-armed, big-nosed monsters and a cute, though not as hilariously funny a script, Happily N’Ever After is generally acceptable, mindless entertainment that seems to be especially pleasing to the young ones.

The story centers on Cinderella’s evil stepmother, Frieda (Sigourney Weaver), who discovers that there is a breach in the Department of Fairyland Security.  It seems that The Wizard (George Carlin) has gone off through a magic portal to golf, and he has left his two odd sidekicks, Mambo (Andy Dick) and Munk (Wallace Shawn) in charge at Headquarters.  It is their job to watch over all the characters of all the Grimm fairy tales (whose lives and activities are viewed through a giant crystal ball) and make sure that all is going according to “the book(s)” and that the balance of good and evil is maintained.  If things start to slip one way or the other, Mambo holds the Wizards scepter over the good and evil scales and straightens things out quickly.

Things go fine with the sidekicks until Frieda makes her way up to the control room and steals the Wizard’s scepter.  She also finds the story of Cinderella and is horrified to read that it is Cinderella, or Ella as she’s called (Sarah Michelle Gellar), who is slated to win the prince’s affections and that she, the wicked stepmother, is forever doomed.  Frieda is delighted to see that the scepter gives her the power to possibly change the outcome of the story and turn things in her own favor – especially since it’s the night of the royal party where Cinderella has just finished that all-important dance and lost her slipper.  Frieda immediately springs into action and calls forth all the evil creatures of Fairyland to come to the castle and do her bidding.  All the "Shrek"-type characters of the land do just that and quickly take over the castle.  Munk and Mambo barely escape.

Meanwhile, Rick (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), assistant and head dishwasher to the spacey blonde Prince Humperdink (Patrick Warburton), reluctantly decides to help Ella find the prince, who is also off in the forest – slipper in hand - looking for her.  Rick is especially disgusted about this assignment because, for years, he has had a crush on the young scullery maid.  But his whole career he’s heard, “You are NOT Prince Charming; you’re the dishwasher!” It will take everything within him to rally his commitment, bravery and love, team up with Ella, Munk, Mambo, and the Seven Dwarfs (led by John DiMaggio), find the prince, and try to return to the castle to save the day before the Wizard returns from golfing.  His task is especially difficult given the fact that Frieda is discovering new and horrific ways to change everyone’s destiny and destroy her terrified step-daughter. 

Happily N’Ever After is cute on a lot of levels and beautifully animated, though many of the characters are drawn very voluptuously.  Most of the girls have large breasts shoved into tight clothing, which, though the style these days, might raise some red flags for parents.  Another weakness of the movie involves the fact that it is unclear who the protagonist is – Frieda or Rick – so audiences don’t fully connect with the goals of either.

And throughout the movie, it is disconcerting to see Frieda as “the bad guy.”  I mean, aren’t mothers – even stepmothers – supposed to be at least somewhat nurturing, and not flying scarily on broomsticks trying to kill their step-kids?  Frieda is a similar character to Cruella DeVille of 101 Dalmations, but at least Cruella wasn’t a mother!

The strength of the movie is in its voice talent and charming little characters, which we will no doubt soon see replicas of at fast food restaurants. Especially memorable are the spirited voice of Sarah Michelle Gellar as Ella, the nervous voice of Andy Dick as Mambo, and the creepy, condescending laughter of Sigourney Weaver as Frieda. 

Some call Happily N’Ever After a “Shrek Lite,” and if you’re a Shrek lover, just watch the movie with moderate expectations, and you should have a bit of fun here and there.

AUDIENCE:  Older children and up

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Mugs of beer-looking beverage consumed by monsters in castle.
  • Language/Profanity:  None, but a little, lightly rude humor here and there.
  • Sex/Nudity:  None, though some characters are drawn too voluptuously or seductively.
  • Violence:  Cartoon violence with people being zapped by the Wizard’s scepter, shot by the Dwarves diamonds, etc.