It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Ella Enchanted" is enchanted, all right. Based on the beloved novel by Gail Carson Levine, it's a high-spirited charmer, a fantasy that sparkles with delights. A lot of the fun is generated because it takes place in a world that is one part "Cinderella," one part "Shrek," and one part "The Princess Bride." It even stars the hero from "Princess Bride," Cary Elwes, who has grown up to become evil Prince Regent Edgar, who killed his brother the king and now has his sights on the king's son, who will inherit the throne. So make that one part "Hamlet" crossed with one part "Macbeth."
Anne Hathaway, that improbably beautiful young woman from "The Princess Diaries," stars as Ella, who at her birth is burdened with a spell from her fairy godmother Lucinda (Vivica A. Fox). In this kingdom, everyone gets a fairy spell, but Ella's is a real inconvenience: She is given the spell of obedience, which means she has to do whatever she's told. As she grows older, this becomes a real problem, especially after her widowed father Sir Peter (Patrick Bergin) provides her with an evil stepmother named Dame Olga (Joanna Lumley) and two jealous stepsisters, Hattie and Olive (Lucy Punch and Jennifer Higham).
So we get the Cinderella story, but with a twist, because Ella is sort of a medieval civil rights crusader, and thinks it's wrong that Prince Edgar has condemned all the non-humans in the kingdom to leave the city and live in the forest. That would include the giants, the ogres and the elves.
Ella is in the forest one day when she is captured by ogres, who suspend her above a boiling cauldron and prepare to boil her for lunch. An ogre asks her, "How do you like to be eaten? Baked? Boiled?" I like her answer: "Free range."