Do you remember that Last Unicorn review a while back? Well, when I watched the movie, the DVD also featured a trailer for Happily N’ever After—and for a rarity, a DVD trailer actually inspired me to watch something! HNA had actually been in my Netflix queue for quite a long while, but finally seeing the trailer convinced me to actually order the disk…and it was as fun as the trailer promised.
An animated movie from Lionsgate, it reminds me a bit of Once Upon a Time mashed up with Tangled. In a magic land where every fairy tale is playing out, Cinderella’s wicked stepmother gets control of the magic, and of the scales that control the happy or sad endings. Pretty soon everything is going awry for Ella, who hopes that the Prince can save the day for her. Unfortunately, what she doesn’t realize is that the Prince is unbelievably dense (and constantly consults a book to tell him the proper action to take). Fortunately, Ella also has a friend named Rick, dishwasher and all-around flunky at the palace—and quite reminiscent of Eugene in Tangled.
This is not a deep movie, but it’s a lot of fun, from the cute Rick to the incredibly funny prince. There are also representatives from several fairy tales, like the seven dwarfs. I always enjoy twists on fairy tales, especially when ordinary people get to be heroic. Rick is a great every-man hero, and the prince is hysterically funny in his earnest efforts (and failures) to do the heroic thing.
I also love that Rick is a long-time friend of Ella, who has been harboring a long-time crush–rather than having her love interest be a guy she danced with once. The romance on Ella’s side comes together rather neatly, but I’m willing to assume she always had feelings for Rick, and she just hadn’t quite put it together.
One piece of advice, if you get the DVD, watch the alternate ending–it ties things up a bit more, and I think I liked it better than the actual ending.
After enjoying Happily N’Ever After, I went on to the sequel. Unfortunately, as often happens with direct-to-video animated sequels, it doesn’t live up to the original–both in depth and in how downhill the animation goes. Almost entirely new characters, this one focuses on Snow White, an irresponsible teenager who has to learn about kindness and true beauty when her father’s horrible fiancee starts creating trouble. This has a nice message, which comes across as simplistic in the extreme. It probably would be fine for a younger audience, but it didn’t strike me as likely to transcend and be fun for adults too.
Part of the issue is that the movie takes on a different tone, trying to bring in more modernity to the fairy tale world. I was enjoying the idea of Snow White as a party-loving, make-up-using teenager for about two minutes…until she uses a magic cell phone to call her girlfriends, who answer with “Holla!” And then continue saying it every third sentence…
On the plus side, there’s one really nice moment with Snow’s love interest, Sir Peter, who seems to be a genuinely compassionate, intelligent, interesting character (except that he looks disconcertingly like Rick!) He actually rejects Snow White at a party when he realizes how shallow she is, and asks a different girl to dance. Cartoons talk about beauty-within all the time, while making sure their kind-hearted heroines are also beautiful and have gorgeous dresses. It was good to see a hero who really took a stand on the subject.
If you’re a fairy tale fan, the first Happily N’Ever After is a fun and clever movie. The second one, you can probably give a pass!