January 6, 2007
It doesn’t take much to make me pine for the days when the animation in movie theaters was solely produced using traditional methods. Happily N’Ever After, which opened this weekend in North America, is a grim reminder that CGI movies should be left to the precious few studios that have mastered the art. In Happily, a BAF Berlin Animation-led production team has matched listless, stiff animation to an equally inane story. The resulting brew is a boondoggle of a film.
Fairy Tale Land’s orderly flow of fairy tale endings is threatened by Ella’s (as in Cinderella's) wicked stepmother Frieda, who takes advantage of an untimely golf trip by the Land’s guardian wizard. Frieda’s soon wreaking havoc with the fates of resident characters like Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and the Seven Dwarfs and it’s up to Rick, a humble dishwasher and Ella’s love interest, to save the day. Still awake? Fractured fairy tales can be fun and have certainly been popular fodder for animation, but this yarn is an unraveled mess.
Other than the obvious difficulty of pulling off a CGI film that’s pleasing to watch and the importance of a decent script, there’s a third crucial lesson to be learned from this feature: celebrity actors cannot save a bad movie. A voice over cast including Sarah Michelle Gellar, George Carlin, Freddie Prinze, Jr., Sigourney Weaver and Andy Dick does nothing for this film. If the professional voice actors in the cast (Tress MacNeille, Rob Paulsen and Kath Soucie to name a few) weren't relegated to backup roles in favor of a conglomeration of Big Names, there may have been some hope of breathing life into this lubberly yawn-fest.