Ella Enchanted A Funny Fairy Tale Spoof

Courtesy:  Lionsgate/Miramax

Courtesy: Lionsgate/Miramax

Actress Anne Hathaway recently took center stage in what could be argued to be one of the biggest roles of her career as Fantine in the latest big screen adaptation of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables.  Ironically enough former American Idol star Adam Lambert has just come out, slamming Hathaway her Les Miserables co-stars, claiming that they can’t sing.  The young Mr. Lambert obviously showed his ignorance as Hathaway shined throughout her performance here.  And her performance in Les Miserables isn’t the first time that she has shown her vocal talents.  She also showed her ability in the 1994 Lionsgate/Miramax Films presentation of Ella Enchanted.

 Nearly two decades have passed since Ella Enchanted first debuted.  When it first debuted, it was met with mixed reviews.  But hindsight is twenty-twenty.  Anyone who saw the recent Julia Roberts/Lily Collins Snow White spoof, Mirror Mirror can attest to this.  The similarities between the two movies are rather obvious.  Considering that, looking back on Ella Enchanted, it’s actually quite the enjoyable fairy-tale spoof.  What audiences get in this movie is a story that pokes fun at the classic, Cinderella.  While it may be a fairy tale at its most basic level, Ella Enchanted isn’t one of those fairy tales that’s aimed at a specific audience.  Being that it’s a spoof of a fairy tale, it’s actually enjoyable enough that both boys and girls will enjoy it as will parents.  Most interesting of all is that what makes Ella Enchanted so enjoyable isn’t so much Hathaway’s acting here, but rather her supporting cast.  Audiences of all ages will love the comedic timing of the ogres and the elves throughout the story.  At one point late in the story, the ogres are helping Ella to save Prince Charmont.  They take down one of the guards and start to “season him” just as Ella stops them.  They look at her, and one of them asks in one of the story’s funniest lines, “Can’t we get him to go?”  In other darker movies, this would have been an unsettling moment.  But in the context of this story, it’s just one of many laugh out loud moments presented for audiences.  The elves make for their own laughs with their antics, too.  The musical number put on by the elves when Slannen brings Ella back to his village will have any audience laughing.  And that Slannen is entirely unlike the other elves is even funnier.  In a bizarre way, his mentality is reminiscent of Herbie the elf from the classic Rankin Bass holiday special, Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer

The ogres and the elves make for their own share of laughs throughout the length of Ella Enchanted.  They aren’t the only supporting cast that makes the movie enjoyable.  Fellow co-star and veteran actor Cary Elwes makes for even more laughs as the vile Prince Regent Edgar.  It’s fitting that Elwes was cast for the role considering his previous roles in The Princess Bride (1987), Hot Shots (1991), and Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993).  All three movies were themselves spoofs, just like this one.  So being at least his fourth time in such a movie, putting on his comedic best was already old hat to him.  But despite that, he still put forth his best foot and added so much enjoyment to the movie.  He even makes it clear in the movie’s bonus behind the scenes feature, “The Magical World of Ella Enchanted” how much he enjoyed working on the movie. Of course the movie’s main bonus feature offers more than just Elwes’ own view on being cast in the role of Edgar.  It also goes into a discussion on the seriousness with which director Tommy O’Haver took helming the movie both from the vantage point of the acting and the production.  It also serves to provide a tidbit of information that further disproves the uneducated and illogical view spewed recently by former American Idol finalist Adam Lambert regarding the talent of Hathaway and her cast mates in Les Miserables.  Viewers will get that and more in checking out “The Magical World of Ella Enchanted.”

In watching the main bonus feature associated with Ella Enchanted, viewers will gain more appreciation for the movie in seeing how seriously director Tommy O’Haver took helming the project.  Through both his own words and those of others who worked on the movie, it’s obvious that he wanted to get the most laughs possible without being too over the top silly.  He did just that, too.  His guidance on every aspect of the movie helped to make it one of the spoof genre’s funnier movies from the 90s.  Along with proving his devotion to the movie and the resultant effect, “The Magical World of Ella Enchanted” also reveals that when Anne Hathaway takes on Queen’s ‘Somebody to Love’ in a musical number during the movie, it actually is her singing.  In a business in which so many actors do little more than lip synch to a track, she proved here (and later in the movie) that she really can sing.  This comes across as something minor when examined by itself.  But when examined in tandem with her performance in the recently released big screen adaptation of Les Miserables, audiences will appreciate even more her talent as both an actress and as a singer.  It proves that the comments recently made by former American Idol finalist Adam Lambert about her and her cast mates in this major motion picture are entirely baseless and thoughtless.  She is definitely a talented singer and an equally talented actress.  Both Les Miserables and Ella Enchanted prove that, using hindsight.  And now thanks to Lionsgate, both a whole new generation of audiences will understand that as will the generation who grew up with this underappreciated fairy tale spoof flick. That’s because it has been re-issued on a two disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack by Lionsgate and Miramax.  It’s available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via the Lionsgate online store at http://www.lionsgateshop.com/product.asp?Id=27239&TitleParentId=7229

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The Dean Martin Christmas Show A Standout Classic Holiday Special

Courtesy:  Time Life/NBC Universal

Courtesy: Time Life/NBC Universal

Time Life and NBC Universal have unearthed a nice piece of holiday television history with the release of The Dean Martin Christmas Show.  This holiday special is a relic of a bygone era.  It’s another prime example of everything that was once right with television.  Much like with the recently released Carol Burnett Show sets, this unearthing shows that there is still love and interest for classic television.  As great as all of the annual holiday specials are, this once forgotten special reminds audiences that there is still much more out there that is just as enjoyable as the aforementioned specials.

The Dean Martin Christmas Show runs at less than an hour long.  The majority of the material in this special is musical numbers.  Although there are some skits tossed in for good measure, too.  OF the few skits included in this show, the best of them is the cop skit with acting legend Dom DeLuise.  DeLuise plays a street cop who tries to give Santa a ticket for parking his sled in a no parking zone.  While audiences never see Santa, the ability of DeLuise to interpret what would have been Santa standing there before him shows his talent.  And his reaction after Santa gives him a present, despite the attempt to give him a ticket, brings the whole skit together.  It makes for lots of laughs even years after its original airing.

Dom DeLuise isn’t the only star who gets his chance for laughs in this special.  Fellow veteran actor Bob Newhart also gets his time to shine.  Newhart stars alongside Martin as a customer trying to return a toupee.  Martin plays the part of a clerk in the complaint department in the store where Newhart’s character is returning the toupee.  The chemistry between the pair is obvious as Martin can’t even hold back his laughs throughout the course of the skit.  Yet by contrast, Newhart somehow manages to maintain his character’s deadpan persona, which is probably why Martin was unable to contain his laughs.  It’s just one more moment that viewers yearning for that nostalgia will enjoy and appreciate with every watch.

The skits included in this roughly forty-eight minute holiday special make for their own share of enjoyment.  The musical numbers add even more nostalgia and enjoyment, too.  Martin and company share their own renditions of a number of Christmas carols.  Home viewers won’t be able to resist signing along a little bit, too.  When it’s all said and done, audiences of all ages will realize that what they’ve experienced is something very special.  Add in the original quality of the broadcast and that feeling gets even stronger.  Audiences can experience that feeling for themselves now as The Dean Martin Christmas Show is available now on DVD courtesy of Time Life and NBC Universal.  It can be ordered online direct via Time Life’s store at http://timelife.com/products/the-dean-martin-christmas-show.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.