The whimsical narrator (Eric Idle) of this spiffy fairy tale has glee in his voice as he recounts the quest of Ella (Anne Hathaway), a spunky young girl, to free herself from a "gift" received from fairy when she was a baby. Lucinda (Viveca Fox) must have thought it a good idea when she gave her perfect obedience, but it's not turning out so well for Ella, who has to obey the commands and demands of anyone she meets, no matter what. Following the death of Ella's dear mother, Mandy (Minnie Driver), her nursemaid who is a spellcaster herself (but not a very good one), tries to protect her from the consequences of this terrible gift.
Ella's father (Patrick Bergen), a businessman who is away a lot, marries Dame Olga (Joanna Lumley), a woman consumed by appearances and a huge yen for money. When her eldest daughter, Hattie (Lucy Punch), figures out that she can order Ella to do anything and presto! she'll do it, our young heroine is in big trouble. Much to the delight of her kleptomaniac younger sister Olive (Jennifer Higham), Hattie forces Ella to break up with her best friend (Parminder Nagra). This compels her to begin a quest to locate Lucinda and make her take back her gift.
As she is leaving, Mandy gives her a Know-It-All Talking Book (Jimi Mistry) which can show her pictures of where people are. Discovering that Lucinda is in Giant's Town, she heads off through the woods. Ella rescues Slannen of Pim (Aidan McArdie), an elf who hates singing, dancing, and being joyful with a passion. Since these are the only roles elves are allowed to play in the kingdom, he is determined to become a lawyer and open the door for others to become what they want beyond prescribed rules. When these two are captured by some ogres who threaten to eat them, Prince Charmont (Hugh Dancy) rescues them. Soon to be coronated as King, he has been raised by Sir Edgar (Cary Elwes), who has been making life difficult for the elves, ogres, and giants in the realm. Having rescued Ella twice before, Prince Charmont is quite taken with this independent-minded young woman. For one thing, she is completely different from the other girls in his fan club, including Hattie and Lucy, who run screaming and yelling after him wherever he goes. When Ella finds out that the prince is unaware of what his uncle has been up to, she realizes that change may be possible. But first she must find Lucinda. And then she and a merry band of elves and ogres will have to crash the coronation.
Ella Enchanted is directed by Tommy O'Haver based on the bestselling, Newbery Honor-winning novel by Gail Carson Levine. It is a delightful romp from start to finish, filled with delicious comic bits, some wonderful melodic songs, and a heroine whose search for her true self is animated by a deep yearning for justice in a kingdom where outsiders are being treated as second-class citizens. Anne Hathway fills the bill as a wonder woman who can sing, dance, enchant, and fight for the rights of others. You'll cheer when she gets the prince!
This is the best piece of fantasy filmmaking since Shrek! And, like that now-classic fairytale, it proves that your strongest asset is what's inside you in your heart.
DVD features include an audio commentary track with director Tommy O'Haver and stars Anne Hathaway and Hugh Dancy, deleted scenes, the featurette "The Magical World of Ella Enchanted," footage of the red carpet premiere, and the music video "It's Not Just Make Believe" by Kari Kimmel.