Contrary to popular opinion, I like animated movies. Some of the best cinematic moments for me can be found in such titles like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and even Cinderella. With likable characters, great musical numbers, and heartfelt stories, these Disney films are ones I keep going back to over and over. And I even like current animated films like Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, Over the Hedge and Surf’s Up. Plus, who was the one that recommended the so-so received Hoodwinked and looked past it’s average animation to see the good film that it really was? I did, of course. But Happily N’Ever After is part of the Shrek school of movies that has recently invaded cinemas and it isn’t one of the better ones, which means it must be pretty bad considering its competition. If I had to rank movies from the animated spoof genre I’d put this one near the bottom with Shrek being a notch or two better, and Hoodwinked being on top.
But let us get the positives out of the way first. The film is pretty clever if not outright funny, with lines that are made to cause guffaws among the audience and it is frequently successful. Some of the lines here are great, and not only because they contain the ‘modern references’ that are what’s ‘cool’ in animation these days, but also because the jokes are surprisingly aggressive and can appeal to adult audiences as well as younger children. The film also does not take itself as seriously as many children’s films do, but is able to send it’s messages without melancholy moments and tear-inducing speeches. Instead, Happily N’Ever After stays funny and tongue-in-cheek throughout its running time.
The story (just like the one in Shrek) is supposed to be predictable. It is a play on all the fairy tale cliches in the history of cinema which basically means that all of them will be played out with ‘clever’ twists that will supposedly surprise the audience. It didn’t work for me. The fact that Prince Charming’s name is Prince Humperdink – a name pronounced in many ways by different characters to make it sound funnier than it actually is. And of course he is a complete buffoon too – you know because it’s clever that the charming prince is actually an idiot – not really. Oh and there is the evil stepmother (Sigourney Weaver) who along with making the innocent Ella’s (Sarah Michell Gellar) life a living Hell also cracks a few jokes along the way (tee hee).
And the jokes delivered by Weaver are pretty funny, it’s just too bad that the rest of the cast list is blessed with anmes like Andy Dick, Freddy Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar. Animated film characters, both comedic and dramatic, depend on a fairly good line delivery. I’m not asking for Al Pacino here, but come on Andy Dick! His delivery is the most painful movie experience of the year, unless you count Eli Roth’s 90 minutes in Hell. And then there are the overly earnest lines by Gellar who has become one of the most annoying actresses of our generation, even when she’s not on screen. She already ruined The Return, and this feels like the last straw.
The look of the animation is so-so. On one hand I like the fact that this is going back to the old school look of the characters, but on the other, these characters have less facial movement than the ones in Doogal… DOOGAL! I understand that this film doesn’t have the studio backing of say… Ice Age, but in this day and age ugly transition between frames and floating characters that have slow movements as if the monitor was working at only 30 hertz, are things that are absolutely unforgivable. Still, I don’t think this will be noticed by the younger audience members, so it’s not as bad as it could have been if this film was solely adult-oriented.
Overall, Happily N’Ever After has some moments that will make you giggle and some lines that are worth repeating, but it’s impact on animated cinema equals that of this website on the whole internet infrastructure – it has no effect. Still, if you are looking for a diversion, as annoying as it is at times, this film will fulfill that purpose. Other than that, spend your money on Ratatouille or Happy Feet, heck even Surf’s Up will do.