Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tommy O'Haver|
|Based on||Ella Enchanted|
by Gail Carson Levine
|Music by||Nick Glennie-Smith|
|Cinematography||John de Borman|
|Edited by||Masahiro Hirakubo|
|Distributed by||Miramax Films|
|Box office||$27.4 million|
Ella Enchanted is a 2004 American fantasy romantic comedy film directed by Tommy O'Haver and written by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith loosely based on Gail Carson Levine's 1997 novel of the same name. Starring Anne Hathaway and Hugh Dancy, the film plays with the usual fairy tale genre.
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In the kingdom of Lamia, baby Ella of Frell is given the "gift" of obedience by Lucinda, a misguided and obnoxious fairy. This turns out to be more of a curse as Ella is magically compelled to instantly and literally obey every command she is given, even if it is against her wishes. On her deathbed, Ella's mother, Lady Eleanor, warns her daughter not to tell anyone about the curse she is under, for fear that someone might use it to exploit Ella. After her Eleanor's death, only the household fairy, Mandy, knows the secret.
Several years later, Ella's father, Sir Peter, remarries to a wealthy socialite, Dame Olga, who dislikes Ella. Her spoiled daughters, Hattie and Olive, notice Ella's obedience and use it to humiliate her. Ella later stumbles upon Prince "Char" Charmont as he's pursued by his besotted fan club. Char invites Ella to the Coronation Ball, but Olga intercepts the invitation. Hattie and Olive, fan club members themselves, are overcome with jealousy and force Ella to insult and cut ties with her best friend, Areida. Ella cannot bear her situation a moment longer, and resolves to look for Lucinda and have her take back her gift. Mandy helps Ella by lending her her boyfriend, Benny, whom she accidentally transformed into a magical book that can show her anything. Figuring out that Lucinda is attending a wedding in Giantville, she leaves home to find her.
On her journey, Ella rescues Slannen, an elf who wants to be a lawyer rather than be forced to be entertainer, like most elves. The two are captured by a group of ogres, who intend to eat them but are quickly rescued by Prince Charmont who accompanies them. En route, Ella opens the Prince's eyes to the cruelty of the laws oppressing elves and giants which have been established by the acting ruler, Sir Edgar, the Prince's uncle. During the wedding festivities, they find out Lucinda has already left to which Char suggests visiting the hall of records at the castle so as to find Lucinda faster, which is overheard by Sir Edgar's snake, Heston. After Ella performs "Somebody to Love" for the wedding guests, Ella and Char bond and begin to fall in love.
The next day, at the castle, Edgar learns about Ella's curse from her stepsisters. Knowing that his nephew is in love with her, Edgar meets with Ella and orders her to murder Char at midnight when he inevitably proposes to her at the coronation ball, and also to keep this plan a secret. Edgar also reveals to Ella that he had murdered Char's father and plans to murder Char as well in order to become king. Afterwards, Ella writes the prince a letter, saying she has to leave due to an emergency and cannot explain why. Ella then asks Slannen to chain her to a tree and leave her there, hoping to wait out Edgar's command, while he goes off to recruit more elves and giants to protect the Prince. As night falls, Lucinda abruptly arrives and Ella begs her to take back her gift. Offended, Lucinda insists that Ella remove the gift herself, and, against Ella's wishes, unchains her and gives her a fancy, new dress. Ella is then forced back to the castle where she stumbles into the ball. Char is delighted to see her and immediately whisks her away to a secret hall of mirrors where he proposes. As Ella is about to stab Char with a dagger, she sees her reflection and commands herself to no longer be obedient, freeing herself from the curse. Char notices the dagger, and Sir Edgar, who had been spying on the couple, has Ella arrested before she can explain herself.
The next morning, Benny, who had been left in the hall of records and thrown away, is found by Slannen in the garbage. When Benny shows them Ella in the dungeon, Slannen, along with a band of elves, giants, and ogres, sneaks into the castle and frees her. Ella is then shown by Benny that Edgar has poisoned Char's crown, intending to kill the Prince at his coronation. As Char is about to be crowned king, Ella and the others crash the ceremony whereupon a brawl against Edgar's soldiers ensues. In the scuffle, Mandy manages to turn Benny human again. As Char and Ella fight off the guards together, she confesses her love for him as well as reveals Edgar's plot and his murder of Char's father, which Edgar denies. While they are distracted, Heston attempts to fatally bite Char, but he is kicked away by Ella and then trampled by Char's fanclub; Char takes this as evidence of his uncle's guilt. Edgar then attempts to denounce the Prince and proclaim himself king but, in the heat of the moment, accidentally puts on the poisoned crown, paralyzing himself. Ella and Char reconcile but are confronted by Ella's stepsisters who command her to stop kissing the Prince, which Ella promptly disobeys.
Ella and Char are married, and Char toasts to a new era of equality among all the citizens of his kingdom. The cast performs a final dance number of "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" before the couple ride off on their honeymoon.
as Young Ella as Baby Ella
Hathaway, who first read the book when she was 16, says that there was originally a version of the script that was much closer to the book but that it didn't work as a film; she added that she prefers the way the movie actually turned out because it "makes fun of itself for being a fairy tale." Levine states that the film is "so different from the book that it's hard to compare them," noting the addition of new characters such as Sir Edgar and Heston, and suggested "regarding the movie as a separate creative act".
Jimi Mistry, a British actor of Indian descent, said that he enjoyed playing a talking book in the film because it offered him the opportunity to do something different from his other roles. "You can't get less Indian than a talking book, and an American talking book, so it was great," he said.
Miramax Films released the film on April 9, 2004. In 2010, Miramax's parent company, the Walt Disney Company, eventually sold Miramax to Filmyard Holdings, who in turn sold the company to beIN Media Group six years later. As of 2019, Disney still owns the rights to this film, and streams it for television on the Disney Channel. On April 30, 2013 the film was re-issued.
Ella Enchanted opened on April 9, 2004 and earned $6,169,030 in its opening weekend, ranking number nine at the domestic box office. At the end of its run, the film grossed $22,918,387 domestically and $4,470,380 overseas for a worldwide total of $27,388,767.
The film received mixed reviews from critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes holds a 50% score based on 115 reviews with an average rating of 5.6/10. The site's consensus reads: "Hathaway is a charming heroine, but the simple storyline gets overwhelmed by silly gimmickry." On Metacritic, the film has a 53 out of 100 rating based on 30 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
The soundtrack was released April 6, 2004 by Hollywood Records and features Kelly Clarkson's cover of Aretha Franklin's "Respect" along with "Somebody to Love" by Queen and "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" by Elton John and Kiki Dee, both as covered by Hathaway and Jesse McCartney.