New this week on DVD, Happily N’Ever After starts as the Cinderella story as told by Prince Charming’s servant Rick (Freddy Prinze Jr.), who is secretly in love with Ella (Sarah Michelle Gellar) — though she only has eyes for the prince (Patrick Warburton). It’s a decent fractured-fairytale premise, and the film plays it fairly straight, with less postmodern irony and pop-culture riffing than Shrek or Hoodwinked. The script bounces along on throwaway gags and one-liners that will get laughs from kids and occasionally even adults.
Alas, cheap-looking computer animation isn’t the only lackluster aspect of the production. The characters are poorly conceived, and the story runs out of steam less than halfway through. Take the prince, whom Ella worships but Rick knows is a buffoon. Of course, no prince is a hero to his servant — but in this case Rick’s contempt is thoroughly warranted. And Ella’s so blindly devoted that she seems just another swooning groupie, not a worthy heroine. What does Rick see in her? With characters this indifferent, who cares who gets the girl?
Slapstick action violence; mild dark humor involving fairy tales gone awry; mild rude humor. Evil stepmother’s appearance is exaggeratedly sexy.