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Film / Ella Enchanted

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A fairy tale adventure for the hero in all of us

Ella Enchanted is a 2004 film loosely based on the novel of the same name by Gail Carson Levine.

The basic premise is the same as in the novel: at birth, Ella (Anne Hathaway), the protagonist, is given the "gift" of obedience by Lucinda, a fairy. Thus is Ella Blessed with Suck. She is forced to obey every direct order given to her, no matter what.

Where the film goes from there differs significantly. The approach is more broadly comedic than the novel, with a Purely Aesthetic Era setting and the addition that Ella even obeys commands that are physically impossible: for instance, if she is ordered to "Freeze" in mid-leap, she will hang frozen in mid-air until the order is countermanded.

The film also stars Hugh Dancy as Prince Charmont, Vivica A. Fox as Lucinda, Minnie Driver as Ella's household fairy Mandy, Cary Elwes as the prince's scheming uncle Edgar, Lucy Punch as Ella's stepsister Hattie, and Aiden Mc Ardle as the elf Slannen.

The film contains examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: The girls in the fanclub for Char, though Hattie and Olive fit this most of all.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
    • Dame Olga, Hattie, and Olive aren't as ugly, overweight, or bald as they are in the books.
    • Combined with Age Lift, Mandy, who was described as an elderly woman in the book is played by the younger and more attractive Minnie Driver.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Peter of Frell, Ella's father, is not the rude and manipulative Jerkass he is in the novel.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole:
    • The film changes how Ella breaks her curse. Here, she breaks it by ordering herself to no longer be obedient. This only raises the question of how and why Ella apparently never tried giving herself an order before.
    • In the book, Hattie orders Ella to end her friendship with Areida while they are at finishing school when no one aware of the curse is there to reverse the order on Ella. Here, however, Olga orders Ella to stop being friends with Areida in front of Mandy who makes no attempt to reverse the order on Ella despite being well aware of the curse.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: Unlike her book counterpart, Lucinda never undergoes a Heel Realization about how harmful her “gifts” are.
  • Age Lift: Mandy, who is described as an elderly women in the book is (physically) much younger here.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Sir Edgar.
    • What Ella correctly assumes about Sir Edgar, but incorrectly about Prince Char. She also assumes the latter is a Royal Brat as well as an Idle Rich.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Heston, Sir Edgar's pet snake, appears to be an emerald tree boa. At one point, he's shown trying to kill Prince Char with a venomous bite, which emerald tree boas don't have (boas are constrictors, who kill their prey by crushing them in their coils).
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Hilariously subverted — Char's coronation was a setup by Sir Edgar, who then, once exposed, crowned himself... forgetting that he had poisoned the crown with intent to kill Char at the moment of crowning.
  • Black Belt in Origami: Ella encounters Mooks bullying the elf Slannen. After he (semi-unintentionally) orders her to help him, she threatens the Mooks with origami. Unfortunately for her, one of the guards knows what origami actually is.
    Guard: Paper folding?
    Ella: Oh... I was hoping you wouldn't know what that was.
  • Black Knight: The castle guards are all decked in black plate armor.
  • Boogie Knights: The armored castle guards join in with the Dance Party Ending.
  • Butt-Monkey: Slannen of Pimm, an elf who wants to be a lawyer, and befriends Ella on her journey.
  • Canon Foreigner: Sir Edgar and his pet snake Heston.
  • Can't Take Criticism: Lucinda gets very offended when someone isn't interested in her gifts.
  • Captain Obvious: Olive.
    I'll bet [Char] showers naked!
  • Cinderella Plot: The film involves a girl named Ella, cursed with obedience. Once her stepfamily discovers this, they take advantage of it to make her life miserable, such as ordering her into stealing shoes and insulting her only friend. The plot diverges a bit from both the original story and the book, as she eventually leaves to find the Fairy Godmother and becomes friends with Prince Char on the journey, then gets caught by his Evil Uncle, the true villain of the movie.
  • Crash-Into Hello: How Ella and Prince Char meet.
  • Coming of Age Story
  • Color-Coded Characters: The color motifs of some of the characters include Ella and Prince Char being associated with blue, Slannen with green, Hattie with orange, Olive with purple, Sir Edgar with red and black, and Dame Olga with black.
  • Damsel in Distress: Ella tries to defy this throughout the film, but her blessing/curse immobilizes her from escaping or rescuing herself from dangerous situations. Char ends up saving her life on multiple occasions.
  • Dance Party Ending: To the tune of "Don't Go Breaking My Heart".
  • Deadly Hug: Ella almost gives one to Char after Sir Edgar learns about her curse and starts manipulating her.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Mandy and Ella could have left any time after Ella's father left for his work so Ella would be saved from Dame Olga's family. After all, Ella wasn't ordered to not run away from her new life and Dame Olga wouldn't bother looking for her new stepdaughter, since Ella has come of age to marry, and Peter is pretty neglectful as a father. They would only care if Ella had another Gold Digger opportunity. They also have friends who were servants for Ella’s family so with Ella's experience as a scullery maid (and her skills from finishing school) and Mandy's talents and fairy abilities, they would get hired easily. Ella even says she would prefer the life of being an actual servant since she'd actually have a choice about it, not to mention she'd likely be treated better and would be paid for her work. Instead, they stay put and resign themselves to Ella's curse being unbreakable when Lucinda apologetically says that she can't undo it after her Heel Realization. Mandy only reveals this option in the climax, when it is much too late for either of them to sneak into the night.
  • Double Meaning: When Char tells Ella that she is not like other girls, Ella responds, "You have no idea."
  • Dramatic Curtain Toss: The unveiling of a statue of Prince Charmant at a medieval mall.
  • Dramatic Necklace Removal: Ella takes her mother's necklace back from her stepsister this way.
  • Enslaved Tongue: If someone tells Ella to say something, she has no choice but to say it.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Cary Elwes was clearly enjoying himself a bit too much.
  • Evil Uncle: Sir Edgar, to Prince Char. He killed his brother, Char's father, so that he could be King.
  • Exact Words: Ella does this a lot of times, thanks to her Obedience curse.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Giantville...where the Giants live.
  • Fairy Devilmother: Lucinda not only "blesses" Ella with the "gift of obedience", but when Ella pleads and begs for her to remove the "gift", Lucinda is offended and refuses, declaring arrogantly "everybody loves my gifts." She not only shows no interest in why Ella would want it removed, but while Ella chained herself to a tree to try and avoid obeying Edgar's order to kill Char, Lucinda frees her and orders her to go to the ball. This is in contrast to her original novel counterpart, who designs her gifts to help children develop into proper adults, only to realize the error of her ways when she experiences her gifts first-hand.
  • Fantastic Racism: All non-human creatures are forcefully relocated (such as ogres) and/or enslaved (such as elves and giants) in order to do jobs that fit their stereotypes. House fairies seem to fall under this as well, but it's unclear if this is an oppressive social convention, as the only one we meet is Mandy, who doesn't seem to mind the job she was born with.
  • For the Evulz: When Ella asks Sir Edgar why he would kill his own brother, he simply replies that he wanted to be king. While jealousy is implied, Sir Edgar is pretty much, in a sense to say, "pure evil", seeing as he has no Freudian Excuse for any those actions.
  • "Gaining Confidence" Song: While at a bar, Ella ends up having to sing "Somebody To Love" for everyone. She's at first uncomfortable and isn't really into it, jerking around each time someone asks her to dance. However, by the end of the song she's enjoying herself and getting into it, going above and beyond.
  • Garden of Love: Char takes Ella to the castle's hall of mirrors in order to propose to her, just as his father had done to his mother. Although indoors, it's covered in plant life, making the room look like a garden. The moment is subverted, however: during the scene Ella struggles to not stab him as she was ordered to, and cannot agree to the proposal despite being in love with him.
  • Geas: Ella's under one which compels her to obey not only any order she's given, but also suggestions such as by vendors to "buy this sandwich" and "try this perfume."
  • Giant Food: Ella encounters this when she travels to the land of giants.
  • Giant Woman: Slannen's’s love interest is a giantess named Brumhilda.
  • Gratuitous Ninja: The Red Guard is basically a group of medieval ninjas. In a European fantasy kingdom. Given the other anachronisms already shown, it's not that farfetched. The fact that they are summoned by breaking the glass on a button box just makes it better.
  • Groupie Brigade: Prince Char
  • Hard Truth Aesop: When Ella begs Lucinda to take the gift back, Lucinda refuses, insisting everyone loves her gifts. She ultimately says "You don't like my gift? Fine. Get rid of it yourself. Don't blame me for your problems." It illustrates a harsh moral: some people just won't take responsibility for their actions, so the problems they created are now your problem. You have to pick up the pieces yourself.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Sir Edgar foolishly does himself in by crowning himself with the poisoned crown intended to kill Prince Char.
  • Horseback Heroism: One of the many times Prince Charmont saves Ella's life is from an ogre's boiling pot when he comes up on his horse.
  • Humiliation Conga: Edgar, enjoying the power he has over Ella thanks to her curse, decides to torment her by making her touch her toes, tub her tummy and pat her head at the same time, jump up and down on the spot, dance the Hokey-Pokey and vigorously shake her butt.
  • I Love You Because I Can't Control You: Prince Charmont tells Ella that he finds her disdain of him appealing, as it contrasts so sharply with the attitude of his extremely large fan club.
  • Improbable Food Budget: How a door-to-door watch salesman (and a lousy one, at that) manages to feed and clothe his entire household is not explained well. However, the cook is a fairy, which might explain why there's enough food to go around, at least.
  • Incapable of Disobeying: The premise of the "gift of obedience" soon after her birth. This "gift" forces Ella to obey any direct order given to her, no matter what. The film takes this to the point that if Ella is ordered to "freeze", she will stop in midair and remain there until the ordered otherwise.
  • Involuntary Dance: Ella is compelled to sing and dance for the entertainment of some giants after some of them yell out for her to do so.
  • Jerkass: Lucinda not only Blesses Ella with Suck, when Ella pleads and begs for her to remove the "gift", Lucinda is offended and refuses, declaring arrogantly "everybody loves my gifts". She not only shows no interest in why Ella would want it removed, but while Ella chained herself to a tree to try and avoid obeying Edgar's order to kill Char, Lucinda frees her and orders her to go to the ball. She's practically a villain in her own right.
  • Karma Houdini: Unlike the book, Lucinda never realizes how wrong her "gifts" are, and in the extended ending we're meant to cheer on her Kick The Son Of A Bitch moment against Hattie.
    • Added to that, Ella's stepmother and stepsisters get off scot-free (although Hattie gets turned into a frog in the alternate ending, and Ella's father files for divorce against Olga).
  • Kick the Dog: Hattie and Olive forcing Ella to steal a number of expensive items from a market stall, get her arrested, have her blame Areida for it, then have her go to the door when she comes to visit, tell her that she never wants to see her again and tell her that she could never be friends with an Ayorthian. Fortunately, Areida forgives Ella by the end.
  • Killer Rabbit: Parodied. While travelling through the forest, Slannen hears rustling and fears for his life. It turns out that it was just cute little bunny.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Prince Charmont, who gallantly saves Ella's life exactly three times.
  • Large Ham: If there is one reason to watch this movie, it is for Cary Elwes in his most hammy splendor.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • Ella has to obey any command given to her, even if she is the one giving it. She escapes the curse this way at the end by commanding herself to stop being obedient. Apparently, it had never occurred to her to try this before; possibly it wasn't an option before Lucinda, after Ella begged her to remove the curse, told her, "Get out of it yourself", or possibly it had to be given while looking at herself in a mirror.
    • Dame Olga tells Ella to pick flowers for her and the girls. She doesn't specify not to include poison ivy.
  • Man Bites Man: Played with. Because of Ella's "gift of obedience" which forces her to obey every direct order given to her, when the leader of a group of girls who are picking on Areida tells Ella "bite me", Ella has to do exactly that.
  • Meaningful Name: The name of the kingdom is Lamia and Sir Edgar's theme is snakes.
  • Meet Cute: Ella and Prince Char officially meet by crashing into each other.
  • Midair Motion Shot: Played with - when Ella is ordered by someone to "freeze!" during a leap over a barrel, Ella is stopped in mid air.
  • Missing Mom: Ella's mother dies when she's young.
  • Mistaken for Junkie: Jokingly. After rescuing Ella from ogres that want to eat her, Char asks Ella if she gets a kick out of near-death experiences. At that point in the movie, these included nearly getting run down by a carriage (Char inadvertently put her in that situation by telling her to stay put while he goes and gets her bag, leaving her stuck in the middle of the road with a carriage bearing down on her).
  • Mr. Fanservice: Prince Char. In one scene he's removed his shirt and vest to allow Ella to put a bandage on his arm, leaving him in nothing but leather pants.
  • The Narrator: In the film, played by Eric Idle of Monty Python.
  • Not Like Other Girls:
    Prince Charmont: Ella of Frell, you're not like other girls.
    Ella: You have no idea.
  • Obviously Evil: Sir Edgar, with his black and red clothing and his snake. It's a wonder that people trust him.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Slannen's actor who plays the character with an American accent, but his genuine Irish accent slips now and then.
  • Our Elves Are Different: Elves are child-sized, pointy-eared humanoids who have been forced into serving as entertainers and running resort villages.
  • Our Giants Are Different: The giants in this story look like regular (albeit scaled-up) humans. Even the ogres, significantly smaller creatures, have larger facial features than they do.
  • Our Ogres Are Different: ogres are big, rough-featured humanoids who have been driven out of their lands and into the wilderness, forcing them to become bandits and prey on travelers — both metaphorically and literally — to survive. By the movie's time, they've become very used to the idea of eating other people.
  • Playing with Puppets: When Edgar demonstrates to Ella that he's aware of her curse, he makes her perform various silly acts before getting on with his actual plan.
  • Poke the Poodle: Subverted in Sir Edgar's case. When he finds out about Ella's curse, the first thing he does is humiliate her in entertaining ways. However, his snake informs him to stay on task.
  • Primitive Clubs: The ogres, who have been driven out of their land and have to resort to anthropophagy and banditry to survive, fight with nailed clubs.
  • Purely Aesthetic Era: The setting is a Medieval spin on the modern world: the people may be riding carriages, but those carriages sure do look similar to yellow taxis...
  • Race Lift: When Ella meets Char in the book, he's described as having "tawny, curly hair and swarthy skin" like his father; she's surprised that he has freckles given his dark complexion. In the movie, he's white.
  • Rejected Marriage Proposal: Played with. When Char proposes to Ella at midnight, she bursts into tears and utters a Rapid-Fire "No!", which he understandably takes as a rejection. He tries to reassure her he loves her and doesn't care about her humble background; however Ella's reaction is actually because Edgar had ordered her to murder Char at midnight, and she's unable to disobey or warn Char because she's cursed to be obedient. In the end when Char proposes to Ella again, she happily accepts. Her stepsister tries to order her to reject him out of spite and Ella initially plays along, only to gleefully reveal she's broken the curse.
  • The Runaway: Ella becomes this, of the Abused Runaway variety. She runs away after being abused by her stepfamily and to try break her curse.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Beautiful!: The reason why Hattie doesn't think it matters if Char's rulings (or what people believe are his political decisions) are unfair or racist/species-ist; he's dreamy!
  • Self-Disposing Villain: Sir Edgar catches the Idiot Ball in the most blatant (yet hilarious) manner possible when he puts on the crown he himself had previously poisoned in order to murder his nephew at the coronation.
  • Shout-Out: To the original fairy tale of Cinderella
    Hattie: Uh, shouldn't you be at home cleaning the fireplace, huh?
    • Hattie orders Ella to steal a pair of glass slippers.
    • Ella's glamorous night at a royal ball comes to an abrupt end at midnight.
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: Sir Edgar shares heavy similarities with King Claudius from Hamlet, who also poisoned his brother just so he could obtain the throne. This also makes Char in effect, similar to Hamlet, but with less tragic results.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Ella and Areida are passionate about social justice for non-humans.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Hattie is more than just a fan of Char. When she lived in Lamia, she would stand outside the palace and stare at his bedroom window for hours. Char is very right to be repulsed by her.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Many of the Giantesses. Particularly Brumhilda, played by Heidi Klum.
  • Sudden Musical Ending: "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" in a Crowd Song to end the film.
    • Lampshaded by the narrator.
    Narrator: Such is the tale of Ella of Frell, a spunky young woman once under a spell. If there's one thing to learn it's you just can't go wrong, if you follow your heart and end with a song.
  • Tinkle in the Eye: When Lucinda lifts baby Ella, she pees on Lucinda's clothes, much to the amusement of Ella's mother.
  • Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Slannen the elf falls in love with Brumhilda the giantess.
  • Toilet Humour: A few instances, such as baby Ella peeing on Lucinda not long after getting her "gift", or Slannen being blown away by a giant's fart.
  • Token Minority: Areida and Lucinda.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Sir Edgar.
  • True Blue Femininity: Ella's Color Motif.
  • Un-Paused: Ella is ordered to freeze by the guards as she is in mid-leap over a wine barrel. When ordered to put her hands together (ie. unfreeze), she falls and crushes the barrel beneath her, drenched in wine.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Sir Edgar breaks down when he is confronted about having killed his own brother and tried to do in Prince Char so he could rule the kingdom himself, insisting only he is fit enough to rule.
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve: The critical moment of the movie is at midnight; Char chose to propose at midnight in the Hall of Mirrors because his father did that too. Since Edgar's instructions regarding the sequence of events were quite specific "At midnight etc. etc." one wonders what would've happened had Char been delayed or something.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Dame Olga.
  • Witch with a Capital "B":
    The Narrator: So, as her step-family scratched their newly found itches, Ella was off, glad to be rid of the erm—witches.