Treading the same well-worn territory as Shrek, along comes Happily N'Ever After, yet another satirical-ish animated take on the traditional fairytale. This time it's Cinderella who gets the CGI treatment, and of course, there's a twist: The wizard who normally ensures all fairytales get their happy ending is on holiday, letting Cindy's (Sarah Michelle Gellar) wicked stepmother Frieda (Sigourney Weaver) give evil the chance at the upper hand. With the help of kitchen boy Rick (Freddie Prinz Jnr), Frieda is defeated, but not before lessons are learnt about true love, and what makes a real happy ending.
If this plot seems simplistic, that's because it is, despite some random jiggery-pokery with the structure. But it could still work, given enough good gags, some nice visuals and charismatic performances. Sadly, it fails to impress on all these fronts. Gellar's vapid turn fails to bring poor underwritten Cinderella to life, while Prinz Jnr's Rick is mostly just annoying. Only Weaver as the wicked stepmother is at all engaging, and she spends entirely too much time cackling maniacally. The animation is pretty enough, but soulless, with stiffly static crowd scenes. And the gags are just rubbish. "Time to get your prince, my dear Mozzarella!" "It's Cinderella". "Really? Why'd you change it?"
If there's a clunkingly obvious thing to do, this film does it, yet the tinies who wouldn't mind that will be confused by the odd structure, and seemingly random scene changes. Other flaws include a host of irritating and ill-drawn minor characters, and obtrusive, badly chosen music. It picks up a little pace towards the end, but that's hardly enough to stop this Mother Goose tale being a mother of a turkey.
Happily N'Ever After is out in the UK on 3rd August 2007.