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Happily N'Ever After
Genre Animation
Year: 2006
Happily N’Ever After didn’t look all that appetizing from the trailer. As a well-known carbonated soda pop company purports… trust your instinct. I would’ve, but I thought I’d take the risk and see what good could be squeezed after one viewing. The funniest thing about it, was that it actually was better than the trailer made it look.

It’s a sweet story, but that’s all. The kingdom of Fairy Tale Land is subjected to distortion when Frieda, Cinderella’s evil stepmother disrupts the balance of good and evil (literally). Frieda (Sigourney Weaver) summons the land’s villains, a mixed bag of trolls, giants, ogres and wolves, to wreak havoc. Ella (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is forced to retaliate after her predestined fairy tale union with the Prince (Patrick Warburton) is ruined. Rick (Freddie Prinze Jr.), an accessory friend, narrator and dishwasher is there to aid her efforts to recapture control of the fairy tale scale and restore balance to the world of fantasy.

Unfortunately, Happily N’Ever After just doesn’t get off the ground, or tap the comedy pipeline. The animation from Berlin BFA rivals most animated productions, and the voice-over cast is phenomenal, but it’s missing the magic. Apart from Patrick Warburton and Andy Dick, the rest of the cast don’t have much comic exposure. We’re talking about comedy here. Each voice talent has an extensive film history, but in the world of voice-overs having a distinct tone is just not enough. Add some comedy misfires, and flat rough writing and you’ll have a royal ‘whatever’. It’s one of those movies where the sound of people coughing and spluttering popcorn is the only ambient audience sound that fills the dead air.

It’s a fairy tale misadventure, and tries to trace the steps of great animation titles like Shrek, but falls horribly short. At moments, the story feels too dedicated to fairyland and not enough to the audience. The characters are too two-dimensional and there’s nothing new to add to the genre. The villains aren’t evil enough, and hardly pose any threat to Fairy Tale Land’s existence, even when the scales are tipped in their favour. Rumplestiltskin is looking after a baby like a new dad, the wolves are making friends with their enemy and the evil stepmother doesn’t have any influence over her good-natured counterparts. It all seems to be trapped in the grey area the whole time. No one is overly good or evil, and the characters all seem to know that everything will be fine in the end, when their fairy tale endings are meant to be in jeopardy.

Shrek worked beautifully because it hired the talent of comedy voice artists like Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers and John Lithgow. The animation was handled by DreamWorks, they employed talented comic writers and they bought the rights to some popular sing-along-songs. Sure, they probably had a bigger budget, but it was fresh, original and fleshed out in undeniable quality, more than 5 years ago! Happily N’Ever After had a smaller budget, and because there was nothing fresh about it, it just fell flat. The story is easily forgotten and the movie is easily remembered as the night you should’ve walked out of the cinema. It’s like a fairy tale reading, in monotone. If it had been produced a decade ago, it wouldn’t have had to compete with the likes of Shrek. The quality animation would’ve absorbed more attention away from trying to be funny and Shrekesque in its story-telling.

Kids won’t even be fooled. It looks pretty and the style of the art reminds me of Disney’s Aladdin, look at Frieda with magic staff (think Jafar) and the magic carpet. Andy Dick hits one funny note every ten or so beats, and he’s meant to be the main comic force in this dismal fairy tale. Patrick Warburton is the funniest character of the lot as a puffed up Johnny Bravo type anti-hero. They don’t utilise his macho bravado enough, and the story suffers for too much Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar. Apologies to fans of the two, but they should stick to looking good as characters on screen, rather than doing the animated thing. If you’re not naturally funny as a screen actor, then chances are you’ll suffer even more in your digital self-image.

The fairy godmother has the funniest lines of the entire production, and even then mistaking Cinderella’s name for other oddities just doesn’t hit the spot. If you want fantastic comedy fanfare, wait for the release of Shrek the Third. The trailer preceding Happily N’Ever After generated more laughs in 2 minutes than the 87 minutes of slow animated traffic that followed. If the kids are nagging you, go for the nap time - but avoid it if you can. It’s not as good as Hoodwinked and not even half as good as Shrek.

The bottom line: Inferior.

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