"Happily N'Ever After" is a computer-animated sendup of favorite fairy tales that fails to enchant or amuse.
The movie's promising concept, of turning the traditional happy ending upside down, might have had dramatic potential. Instead "Happily N'Ever After," from new director Paul Bolger, screenwriter Rob Moreland and BAF Berlin Animation Film, opts for slapstick, cliches, flat characters, random nonsense and one-liners that fly over the heads of its intended audience. It's a lumpy, indigestible stew of regurgitated Disney rather than a fresh take on Grimm.
Not even Sigourney Weaver, in the full villain mode she perfected as the camp warden in "Holes," can rescue this misbegotten mutt of a tale.
It seems the balance of good and evil in the fairy tale universe and the requisite happily-ever-after endings are normally maintained by a wizard using a crystal ball, a scepter, a scale and a TV remote. When the wizard (George Carlin) goes golfing in Scotland, the squabbling of his bumbling assistants Mambo and Munk (Wallace Shawn and Andy Dick) attracts the attention of Cinderella's evil stepmother (Weaver). She decrees there will be no more happy endings: Rumpelstiltskin will take the baby, the wolf will eat the pigs, etc., etc., etc. And villains will triumph; an assortment of wolves, trolls, a giant and witches inexplicably riding motorized brooms swarm the castle.
Children may find parts of the movie amusing. Shawn and Dick are occasionally funny as the wizard's assistants. The Cinderella theme at the heart of the story offers some appeal, with Sarah Michelle Gellar as the voice of Ella, who prefers moronic Prince Humperdink (Patrick Warburton) to "Rick the dishwasher" (Freddie Prinze Jr.) with his superior hairstyle and 21st century rebel/punk persona.
Ancillary characters (including a chorus of French chefs and seven redneck dwarfs with good ol' boy drawls) fail to amuse. The backgrounds are colorful, but the music is lackluster.
In the end, the expectation of a "Happily Ever After" ending is the only reason to stay in your seat.
HAPPILY N'EVER AFTER
1 star (Out of 4)
STARRING: Voices of Sigourney Weaver, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr, Patrick Warburton and Andy Dick
DIRECTOR: Paul Bolger
RUNNING TIME: 87 minutes
RATING: PG for mild action and rude humor
THE LOWDOWN: An evil stepmother takes control of fairy land and eliminates happy endings.