This computer-animated flick goes for humor with self-referential jabs at fairy tales as Rick (Freddie Prinze Jr.) pines for Ella (Sarah Michelle Gellar, Prinze Jr.'s real-life sweetie), a Cinderella-type who knows formula dictates she should find love with the handsome Prince (Patrick Warburton). Meanwhile, the balance of power has shifted in the kingdom, so evil now threatens to triumph over good. Sigourney Weaver, Andy Dick and George Carlin also lend voices.
Big question: Can "Happily N'Ever After" find added hilarity in material already explored in "Shrek" (which came from one of the same producers)?
Skip it: Aside from having the worst play-on-words title since "Lucky Number Slevin," "Happily N'Ever After" doesn't subvert the fairy tale genre so much as acknowledge it and then twiddle its thumbs, unable to come up with any ideas. The animation is pretty clunky, and all of the characters and most of the people voicing them are as expressive as plastic or, in their best moments, rubber.
Catch it: If you think the stiff, unfunny Prinze Jr. is perfect to play a poorly drawn animated figure. He is, indeed, as wooden as Pinocchio!
Bottom line: It's fitting and a little ironic that a movie about the same stories being perpetuated has no imagination of its own. The sound mix and performances don't even seem finished, and in terms of lasting, satisfying flavor, "Happily N'Ever After" falls somewhere between cardboard and tofu.
Bonus: Though we don't get to see this actually happen in the movie (it's only mentioned), we enjoy the thought of giving Rapunzel a mullet. Sounds like a dream date for Larry the Cable Guy!
Matt Pais is the metromix movies producer.
'Happily N'Ever After'
Directed by Paul J. Bolger; additional directing by Yvette Kaplan; written by Rob Moreland; additional writing by Doug Langdale; photographed by David Dulac; edited by Ringo Hess; production designed by Deane Taylor; music by Paul Buckley; produced by John H. Williams. A Lionsgate release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:25. MPAA rating: PG (for some mild action and rude humor).
Ella - Sarah Michelle Gellar
Rick - Freddie Prinze Jr.
Frieda - Sigourney Weaver
Mambo - Andy Dick
Munk - Wallace Shawn
Prince Humperdink - Patrick Warburton
The Wizard - George Carlin