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IN SHORT: More fun than the cartoon
Here we are in the doldrums of summer, when all the crap is supposed to be released to flounder mercilessly on the waves of sweat coating our brows from the summer heat. When the movie theaters are filled with leftover blockbusters that we've already wasted our dollars on; when whatever's left in the studio vaults is tossed on screen, in the hope that we'll spend a couple of bucks to come in out of the heat. This is supposed to be the second worst time of the year, after the dregs of the Oscar wannabe race start to surface in the wintertime. It's supposed to be. But three weeks running I've been surprised and delighted (or emotionally stunned, in one case) at a new movie. So, I just can't do it anymore. Be Cranky. Just can't do it.
I was, I thought, properly prepared for Ever After having dreaded the very concept of a retelling of the Cinderella story for months. Star Drew Barrymore was good in The Wedding Singer, she's really good in her next flick (Home Fries, coming in October) so I thought maybe Ever After would quickly disappear like the incredibly ridiculous and lamebrain idea it is. Let's be honest about it, folks, the Disney Cinderella flick is a classic. True, being filled with magic carriages and singing mice and a fairy godmother, Disney's cartoon has little in common with the original, violent and vindictive (yea!) tale by the Brothers Grimm. It's not wise to go up against a classic fantasy. It's very entertaining to go in the opposite direction and maintain that it's all true.
Ever After sets itself firmly in real history (the 16th Century) beginning with an audience between the Brothers Grimm and the "Grande Dame" (Jeanne Moreau) [read: Queen of France], who has called the boys in to set their story straight. There's a glass slipper, a stepmother and two stepsisters, but that's about all that remains of the tale. In the movie telling, there is a substantial courtship between Danielle (Barrymore) and the Prince (Dougray Scott), with the plot turning on a secret identity shtick. Don't shudder, it makes perfect sense. This story is more a tale built on a socialistic political treatise (Thomas More's "Utopia" figures prominently in the philosophical discussions between Cinderella and the Prince) with enough PC gently built into it to make this New York Jew Liberal sputter. There, I've slandered myself enough to be fair.
And Cranky can put this sucker to rest with a one word description.
Anjelica Huston is Rodmilla, the scheming, conniving and très overprotective mother who would probably take out her meanness on her plain daughter Jacqueline (Melanie Lynsky) rather than the elder and more gorgeous blonde, Marguerite (Megan Dodds) if she didn't have Danielle as servant fodder. She wouldn't have had Danielle to pick on had she not married Auguste (Jeroen Krabbe), the daddy whose death is actually explained in this telling. Rodmilla's schemes include moving up the ladder by foisting Marguerite off on Prince Henry, himself foisted off on Princess Gabriella of Spain. But when Danielle lands the Prince, completely by accident, Rodmilla schemes with Rocky Horror's Richard O'Brien (as the evil Pierre Le Pieu) to remove her from the scene. Stuck in the middle of all of this is Leonardo Da Vinci (Patrick Godfrey), and I'll leave that small delight to your theatrical experience.
Screenwriters Susannah Grant and Andy Tennant & Rick Parks (Tennant also directed) have carefully thought through all the economic and psychological ramifications of almost every part of the story (which even the Brothers Grimm never bothered to do). They've built a multilayered story filled with class warfare and secret identities, a couple of swordfights and a most darling development of a romantic relationship between the principals. It's a real good piece of writing and Tennant's direction does it no harm.
Sigh. I quit. No more Cranky. Finito. Los Endos.
There. I said it. I'm supposed to hate all this romantic stuff. I'm really supposed to get ticked off when PC thinking is built in, no matter how subtly. But not this time. I paid my cash, enjoyed the flick tremendously -- as did all the dating couples I talked to on the way out, lucky devils -- went home and contemplated suicide for letting all you readers down for praising too many flicks in the rank end of summer days.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Ever After, he would have paid . . .
The Reviewer Formerly Known as Cranky will quote the script and let the words speak for themself:
She: I thought
you were supposed to be charming.
Clever. Fun. Charming. Romantic. I Quit.
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