Happily N'Ever After

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 01/04/07 22:23:50

"Don't B'Other."
1 stars (Sucks)

My first big problem with “Happily N’Ever After” is the title. Look, title guy, it’s a cute pun, but the apostrophe and the capital E kills the joke. “Never” would work just fine. You’re overselling it. Plus, it’s just an absolute pain to type, and as a critic I must put my own interests first.

My second big problem with “Happily” is the casting. Look, casting guy, Patrick Warburton and Wallace Shawn have voiced enough pompous fools and nebbish sidekicks (respectively) that their appearances in such roles have become cliché. I adore the careers of both talents, and they are the two best things about the movie, and I’m delighted to see them both get paychecks. but still. It’s lazy casting all the way.

And what’s with Freddie Prinze, Jr.? Are you trying to put us all to sleep here? The casting of Sarah Michelle Gellar as a hipster Cinderella is bland enough, now you have to haul in her husband? Out of what, some sort of Gellar contractual obligation? Oh, that is really why he’s here? I understand. Sorry. But can that excuse Andy Dick? (Frankly, can anything excuse Andy Dick?)

Big problem number three: the ads. “Happily” hypes itself as being from the producer of the “Shrek” films. Thing is, ad guy, the “Shrek” films had a handful of producers. And “Happily” has a handful of producers (ten in all). And only one of them worked on both films. His name is John H. Williams, and apparently he is your meal ticket, letting you hype the complete Shrekness of the film without coming off like a total rip-off.

Problema grande número cuatro: the complete Shrekness of the film, which comes off like a total rip-off. Look, Hollywood guy, we get it. “Shrek” made a lot of money, and “Shrek 2” made a lot more money, and anything that makes that much money must be copied a good dozen times before everyone gets tired. Which is why we had to sit through the abysmal “Hoodwinked!” and the dreary “Ella Enchanted” and why we’ll have to sit through whatever modernized Fractured Fairy Tales are yet to come. Sure, kids like the idea of playing around with familiar stories and poking fun of their favorite fairy tale characters, but when your freshest ideas involve Andy Dick talking in hip-hop slang or the seven dwarfs turning out to be camouflage-wearing survivalist nuts, you look like you only made the movie to cash in on a pre-sold gimmick. Which you probably did. (Plus, in several montages, you threw in a ton of that alt-pop that made the “Shrek” soundtrack sell so well. Way to be fresh.)

OK, so enough with the big problems, the problemas grandes. “Happily” is a tiresome CGI cartoon in which the Wizard of Fairy Tale Land (George Carlin in an utterly wasted cameo - not only is his character quite forgettable, but he winds up having to joke about how much fun he had playing golf, which anyone familiar with his comedy will understand as being so very not-George) takes a vacation, leaving two impish assistants, Munk (Shawn) and Mambo (Dick), in charge. Not entirely explained is the idea of the wizard watching over all fairy tale stories and making sure they have a happy ending; the stories repeat themselves endlessly, we are told, although it is not clear if the characters we meet are trapped in some hellish loop, or if new characters replace them each time.

No matter. Cinderella (Gellar) - Ella to you and me - makes her grand entrance at the ball, wooing Prince Charming (Wharburton) while ignoring the affections of best pal/kitchen boy Rick (Prinze). But that’s when the Wicked Stepmother (Sigourney Weaver) steals the fairy tale power from Munk and Mambo and gives all stories bad endings. It’s up to Ella, Rick, Munk, and Mambo to save the kingdom, and maybe along the way Ella will realize she loves Rick and not the prince, and etc., etc.

Not counting derivative, obnoxious, poorly animated, and woefully unfunny, what “Happily” is most of all is dull. The film struggles throughout to be loud enough or hip enough to keep things flowing, but since we’ve seen it all done so much better before, working your way through this movie becomes a long, hard slog. Kids at the screening I attended were squirmy and chatty and generally bored out of their minds; occasionally a quick joke or manic action sequence would perk them up, but one look across the crowd, and you could tell this was not a movie they’d be talking about again and again in that way kids tend to do with the films they like.

Parents, meanwhile, had a collectively dreary “oh, the things I sit through for my children” look on their faces. And mine was the dreariest of them all. Thanks a lot, Hollywood guy.

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