Anne Hathaway ("The Princess Diaries") is Ella, resident of the medieval-esque village of Frell, where magical doings are not uncommon, and every child is granted a blessing by a fairy godmother. Unfortunately for Ella, her pixilated benefactor, Lucinda (Vivica A. Fox), suffers from poor judgment, among many other flaws, and bestows the gift of obedience, which naturally is more of a curse. Ella's intelligent, outspoken nature is hampered by the spell that impels her to follow any command, but her quick wit helps her to cover for her strange behavior and keep her condition a secret. When the evil stepmother and wicked stepsisters of lore take over her life, however, her Achilles' heel is discovered, and she is forced to run away from home and journey through treacherous woods filled with giants and ogres in search of Lucinda and a cure. For company, she has a human who's been turned into a book and an elf who wants to be a lawyer but can't because of oppressive laws newly imposed by the monarchy. Thus, when Ella literally runs into Prince Charmont (Hugh Dancy, exuding Heath and Orlando vibes), she is anything but charmed. Fortunately for tween girls everywhere, the prince is completely oblivious to the evil dealings of his power-hungry uncle (nope, no one's suspicious of the acting king with the Snidely Whiplash mustache and the talking pet snake), thus allowing contentious attraction to give way to true love.
With its colorful RenFaire sets, visual puns and unrelentingly exuberant energy, "Ella Enchanted" may be a little too enchanted with itself, but it conjures enough magical moments to keep its target audience entranced. Starring Anne Hathaway, Hugh Dancy, Lucy Punch, Minnie Driver and Jimi Mistry. Directed by Tommy O'Haver. Written by Laurie Craig, Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith. Produced by Jane Startz. A Miramax release. Comedy/Romance. Rated PG for some crude humor and language. Running time: 101 min