Related Articles: Movies, All

Happily N’Ever After

Revisionist Storytelling Falls Flat

Happily N’Ever After

Revisionist Storytelling Falls Flat

By Rossiter Drake

Most of us have, at one time or another, rooted for Wile E. Coyote to catch the Road Runner, not because that would lend itself to richer, more compelling drama, but because it would add a new wrinkle to an old yarn. Alternate endings always hold that tantalizing promise -- for better or worse, they show us something we haven’t seen before, and when you’ve heard a story so many times, even the slightest change is refreshing.

That’s the conceit at the heart of Happily N’Ever After, a lazily animated feature that takes a handful of fairy tales -- among them, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White -- and imagines what they would be like if the bad guys won. Fair enough, but why do the bad guys have to be so dull? The premise here is ripe with subversive possibilities, but Happily N’Ever After doesn’t bother to explore them. It has one clever idea, but beyond that, inspiration is nowhere in evidence.

That’s true on every level. Fairy Tale Land, the magical home of Cinderella, her wicked stepmother Frieda, and all the other stars of the legendary Grimm fables, would seem like an animator’s dream, but Happily N’Ever After suffers from a curious lack of visual sophistication, as if were rushed into production while still in the storyboard stages. (Indeed, the press notes confirm that the movie was completed in a matter of months -- an unprecedented feat, made all the less impressive by the results.) Even the voice-work is inconsistent -- Sigourney Weaver is gleefully vicious as Frieda, but Freddie Prinze Jr. is dull and expressionless as Rick, the dishwasher-with-a-heart-of-gold who yearns to win Cinderella’s hand.

Elsewhere, Robert Moreland’s script adds little to the proceedings, save for snarky one-liners and setups that could have used more inventive payoffs. Frieda takes over Fairy Tale Land because… well, that’s just what evil stepmothers do. Meanwhile, the rest of the villains sit around drinking, waiting for Rick and Cinderella (Sarah Michelle Gellar) to save the day and fall in love. They’re a perfect match, actually -- there’s not a shred of personality between the two of them -- but in a movie that professes to be sick and tired of happy endings, there’s something particularly irksome about this one.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars