Happily N'Ever After Paul J. Bolger

It’s come to a point where flashing celebrity names on the marquee for an animated film just isn’t enough to convince moviegoers of its worth. Dreamworks has proven this point many times, but even the worst of their crop (ahem, Shark Tale) doesn’t reach the creative low of Happily N’Ever After.

I was intrigued by the concept at first: Fairy Tale Land is taken over by an evil stepmother (a role Sigourney Weaver was thought to be born for), who puts unhappy endings on stories such as Sleeping Beauty and Rumplestiltskin. Sounds like it could take these fables back to the Grimm style of storytelling, right? But then Freddie Prinze Jr. takes over the film as the "charming but cynical” narrator and triggers one of those "Oh no, it’s Freddie Prinze Jr.” moments. And just like that, Happily shows it’s made of what you feared.

It’s not just the dread of enduring such a thick narration that does this movie in, it’s, well, everything! The animation isn’t up to today’s standards, offering something that may have contended with Toy Story a decade ago. The story is handled with such lazy clichés that it makes Shrek gleam with originality. Sigourney Weaver’s evil stepmother had the potential to mess with the conventions that have been burned into our heads but the script falls into the trappings of not knowing who the audience is and her wicked ways utilise mind-numbing plots that literally put me to sleep. The romance between Prinze’s Rick and Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Ella is even more yawn-inducing — are we to believe that these two are one of Hollywood’s hottest couples? Not with this script. And then there is the so-called celebrity talent voicing these characters.

Even from what we’ve become accustomed to that isn’t from Pixar, Happily isn’t up to snuff, offering a mishmash of A, B and C list names that certainly aren’t enough to convince anyone to give it a try. Patrick Warburton (Seinfeld’s Puddy, The Tick) is embarrassingly restrained as the vain Prince Charming, while Andy Dick’s Mambo proves he can’t be funny unless he’s the butt of someone’s STD or druggy joke. Happily N’Ever After will leave you just that.

(Maple)