2006 was really the year that moviegoers became more discerning about their animation. With the genre as prevalent as ever, the days of the “do no wrong” animated film are officially over. Look no further than Happily N’Ever After as Exhibit A in the case for an official studio back down from the recent saturation. Limping into theaters at the least admirable time of year, the film is a disaster on a scale we may not have seen yet in this genre. That would make it a new low.
The plot: The magical world of Fairy Tale Land, which houses the characters of virtually every fairy tale known to man, is in trouble. The Wizard (voiced by George Carlin, who gets a grand total of about five lines) controls the scale of each tale, if you will. He makes sure all of our favorite stories come to their signature happy endings. The Wizard goes on vacation and leaves his duty to his two minions, Mambo (voiced by Andy Dick) and Munk (voiced by Wallace Shawn). Of course they screw things up and control of the Land soon falls into the hands of Frieda (voiced by Sigourney Weaver), the wicked stepmother of Ella (voiced by Sarah Michelle Gellar). Determined to have all the stories end in horrible fashion, it is up to Ella, would-be husband Rick (voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr.), Prince Humperdink (voiced by Patrick Warburton), and a host of others to stop Frieda before she ruins the Land.
“From the producer of Shrek and Shrek 2” is proudly displayed across the top of any piece of media in relation to Happily N’Ever After. While the Shrek films are largely enjoyable, they aren’t flawless. Take those flaws, expand them to feature-length, and out comes Happily N’Ever After. The film moves at a rapid, almost Airplane-like clip with quips galore, but none of it sticks. It’s not funny, it’s poorly animated, and on top of that we have to deal with the awful alternative-rock tunes similar to those that plague the aforementioned Shrek series. The only remote saving grace is a half-baked (which makes it twice as baked as any other idea in the movie) subplot involving Rumplestiltskin (voiced by Michael McShane) becoming a softy because of the child he has kidnapped. As longtime readers may know, I often use the reactions of the children in the crowd to help gauge the quality of films like this. There were minor chuckles at best.
The voice performances don’t fare much better, with the exception of Sigourney Weaver as Frieda and the always-dependable Wallace Shawn as Munk. Freddie Prinze Jr., who can barely act in the flesh, sounds like he’s reading from a phone book and Sarah Michelle Gellar has the tone of someone who was paid up front and just wants to call it a day. This is not what you want from the two driving actors of your project.
There is no legitimate reason to see this movie, even for fairy tale aficionados who just can’t get enough roasting of these beloved stories. It has been done to death, not to mention as well as it probably can be done with the Shrek series. One would be much better off revisiting one of those features instead of supporting synthetic, horribly executed fare such as this.
Studio: Lions Gate Films
Length: 75 Minutes
Rating: PG for some mild action and rude humor.
Theatrical Release: January 5, 2007
Directed by: Paul J. Bolger
Written by: Robert Moreland
Cast: Sigourney Weaver (voice), Sarah Michelle Gellar (voice), Freddie Prinze Jr. (voice), Patrick Warburton (voice), Andy Dick (voice), Wallace Shawn (voice)