HAPPILY NEVER AFTER
Happily N'Ever After is a co-production between several German companies and Vanguard Animation, an up and coming US animation company responsible for films like Valiant (2005) and Space Chimps (2008). Vanguard have been angling for a big breakthrough hit that will allow them to compete with the likes of Pixar, DreamWorks Animation and Blue Sky Studios in the increasingly overcrowded theatrical animation market. In fact, Happily N'Ever After strains with the effort of trying to appeal to the hip, ironic fairytale genre. The problem with Happily N'Ever After is that it is trying to compete in the same arena as Pixar, Blue Sky et al but is stuck with a B-budget. The filmmakers try very much to be in the same league and make the film look like an A production but it is obvious at times that corners are being cut in the animation.
Very quickly, Happily N'Ever After heads down the trail of the Shrek sequels and Hoodwinked! in piling on an irritating barrage of hip pop-culture jokes and sarcastic modern asides. The film sinks to ones worst expectations from the opening scene where the Wicked Stepmother is interrupted in her tyrannical rant by a broken frame and a voiceover: Would the owner of a light blue vehicle with Narnia plates please move their vehicle youre parked in a trolls only zone ... You see that there thats what we call the Wicked Stepmother. Feel free to boo. I know what youre thinking who put a Wicked Stepmother in charge? Without free elections. Any chance for a recount? There are constant contemporary culture in-references a Department of Fairytaleland Security; the witches ride broomsticks that are designed like Harleys and when Rick climbs aboard a broomstick it makes the same sound effects as the pod racers in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999); while the Seven Dwarfs have Southern accents like they were a support act for ZZ Top and are revealed to have turned their cottage into a heavily armoured fort. There is much sarcastic puncturing of standard fairytale characters. It is noted: Rumpelstiltskin still going for custody. I think he wants weekends, right? and later he gets all paternalistic and protective of the baby, remonstrating the Wicked Stepmother: Im concerned about the effects of violence on the baby. The films low point is surely when we see the trolls after they have taken over the castle and are holding a disco with them dancing to the Monster Mash (1962). All of this goes well past the amusing and into the smugly irritating.
The basic concept, while promising in its meta-fiction, is thinly stretched and not very convincingly set up. Indeed, the filmmakers seem to have no concern for anything beyond making these constant fairytale in-jokes. There is next-to-no interest in the romance between Ella and Rick, who have an off-puttingly bitchy and sarcastic relationship. In fact, the film never even seems interested in the threat posed by the Wicked Stepmother.
A sequel Happily N'Ever After 2 (2009) was made but released directly to dvd.