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Happily N'Ever After

Happily N'Ever After

Rated PG, 85 min. Directed by Paul J. Bolger. Voices by Sigourney Weaver, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr., George Carlin, Michael McShane, Patrick Warburton, Andy Dick, Wallace Shawn, Jon Polito.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Jan. 12, 2007

Once upon a time, there were cinematic fairy tales for the kids (e.g., Walt Disney's Cinderella), for the adults (e.g., Pan's Labyrinth, The West Wing), and the occasional, rare-as-a-unicorn, bizarro hybrid that might appeal to both camps (e.g., The Princess Bride). The point is, up until the arrival of Jay Ward's "Fractured Fairy Tales" in the Sixties, the fairy tale Rubicon was self-evident and well-nigh uncrossable. Lately, however, in the wake of snarky, hipster retoolings of ancient themes à la Shrek, the line has grown less and less obvious. Suddenly, it seems parents are hipsters, and they want their offspring to be in on the joke, too. This bodes well for no one, as evidenced by Happily N'Ever After, a lame, gratingly unfunny attempt at "Fractured"-type humor that's merely annoying. Ella (Gellar), the nominal focus of the film, is animated in a schizophrenic mix of hand-drawn animation and CGI, to resemble a bobbed Audrey Hepburn-cum-"Torn"-era Natalie Imbruglia, which may sound too specific on my part but probably isn't. She pines for the attentions of the vapid Prince Humperdink (a very typecast Warburton) and all but ignores those of her erstwhile "friend," the mumbly Rick (Prinze Jr.), who looks something like Sufjan Stevens were he a Satanist. Enter the wicked stepmother (Weaver), who schemes to abolish happy endings once and for all while Fairy Tale Land's rightful ruler (of sorts), George Carlin's Wizard, is off golfing in Scotland. Seriously. And that's about it, except for some phoned-in vocal turns from Dick and Princess Bride alumnus Shawn (who should know better). Happily N'Ever After isn't just cynically humorless; it's shoddy-looking to boot, with an oddly unsaturated color palette and a wealth of painfully obvious character designs. Chief among those are the brain-dead Prince Humperdink, who is rendered so unimaginatively – muscles on his muscles, golden locks, etc. – as to be a caricature of a caricature of two satires and a parody. The script is just a witless retread of old lines better used elsewhere; one character gets a pie in the face, licks his lips, and murmurs, "Mmmm … vanilla!" – a gag that predates the Three Stooges. If you really want the kids to see a colorfully cryptic meta fairy tale, be subversive, and go rent ’em some Alejandro Jodorowsky. No child deserves Happily N'Ever After.
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