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In a re-telling of one of our most beloved tales, a resourceful young woman must overcome the schemes of her evil stepmother to be with the one she loves - the Prince of France - who has fallen for her beauty and intelligence. With the ingenuity of Leonardo Di Vinci and the strength of love, the young woman realizes that the Cinderella story can come true.
For more about Ever After and the Ever After Blu-ray release, see Ever After Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on January 24, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Drew Barrymore, Anjelica Huston, Dougray Scott, Megan Dodds, Melanie Lynskey, Timothy West
Director: Andy Tennant
» See full cast & crew
Ever After Blu-ray Review
Belle of the ball, or a cinematic wallflower?
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, January 24, 2011
Ever After—writer/director Andy Tennant's retelling of the Cinderella story—was greeted upon its 1998 release with heaps of critical praise, mostly for its costume romance lushness, the buoyantly charismatic performance of its then-23-year-old star Drew Barrymore, and its vaguely feminist, the princess can save herself message. The question now, some 13 years later, is how well does the film hold up to scrutiny? Was all that acclaim just hot air from the Hollywood hype machine, or does Ever After have real lasting merit as a revisionist, girl-power fairy tale? I may get hate mail from legions of women who were, say, between 8 and 18 when the film debuted, but I'm going to have to argue the former. Ever After is cute, a little pious, and fine for a feel-good evening in—it's perhaps the ultimate pre-teen slumber party movie—but it's not nearly the you go girl game changer that some writers made it out to be. It's more of a cotton candy film—fun, fluffy, and by the time you're finished with it, teeth-achingly sweet.
You may think you know the Cinderella story—the pumpkin carriage, the friendly mice, the fairy godmother—but Ever After wants to set the record straight. The film begins with the Brothers Grimm visiting an erudite old dame who claims that Cinderella was an actual person named Danielle (Barrymore) who lived in 16th century France. Naturellement, we then flash back to this bygone era of once upon a time to learn how the story really went down. (Which is, by and large, the Disney version of the tale, only sans-magic and with the addition of the spunky, newfangled idea that a real princess doesn't need saving. Don't worry, she still gets to fall in syrupy, lovey-dovey love with the long- lock'ed man of her dreams. It's just her choice this time around.)
After her doting father dies of a massive coronary, Danielle grows up as a servant to her icy stepmother Rodmilla (Anjelica Houston) and two step- sisters, brunette overeater Jacqueline (Melanie Lynskey) and svelte Marguerite (Megan Dodds), an uppity blond intent on winning the hand of Prince Henry (Dougray Scott), a rogue royal who can't stand the courtly life he's supposed to lead. Henry is also faced with an ultimatum from his portly father, King Francis (Timothy West)—he has five days to announce a marriage to the girl of his choice, or his father will choose for him. When Danielle poses as a courtesan to free a servant her stepmother sold into slavery, she inadvertently draws Henry's attention, and the two fall secretly…inevitably…inexorably…in love.
The trouble, of course, is two-fold: Henry doesn't know that Danielle is but a lowly peasant, and Rodmilla, who will do just about anything to make her own daughter Marguerite the next queen of France, hates her with a spitefully irrational passion. The whole charade is revealed at a swanky royal ball, where Danielle shows up wearing some oh-so-1990s glittery makeup—not to mention a pair of angel wings made by, no kidding, Leonardo di Vinci (Patrick Godfrey), who serves as a kind of surrogate fairy godmother—only to be publicly disgraced by her stone cold bi-otch of a step-mum. She flees the scene, leaving behind that iconic glass slipper, but you know how these stories always end—with a chaste kiss between reunited lovers.
Where Ever After differs from previous retellings of the age-old story is that Danielle is presented as a smart, capable, dignified woman who finds herself before she finds a prince. She certainly doesn't need rescued. Even when Rodmilla pawns her off to a lascivious-looking businessman who speaks in double entendres and seems intent on, uh, plowing her field, Danielle takes charge of the situation, holds a dagger to the perv's jugular, and forcibly takes back her freedom. If anything, she rescues the prince, helping him to see beyond his prejudices and inspiring him to devote his life to learning. This kind of female empowerment is great—and much needed in an industry where an inordinate amount of heroes are men—but it doesn't necessarily elevate Ever After above the powder-puff promenade of other fairytale romance films. In most other respects, it's a rather conventional—enjoyable, but certainly not groundbreaking—bit of storytelling aimed squarely at teenaged girls.
I'm just playing devil's advocate, though. The film does have its charms, as evidenced by the fact that it still gets regular rotation in—amongst other places, I'm sure—the dorm rooms of a certain sub-set of clean-cut, conservative college girls. (Don't ask me how I know this.) Only a truly cold, cynical soul would fail to warm to the relationship that develops between Danielle and Henry—as goofy and sentimental as it most of the time—and there's a keen satisfaction in seeing Rodmilla and Marguerite get their just deserts. Anjelica Houston and Megan Dodds are so good at being ingratiating to their betters—and outright horrible to everyone else—that you wish Drew Barrymore would just suckerpunch the both of them in the mouth. But our heroine plays it cool. This was Barrymore's first real starring role, and she works bubbly wonders with it.
Ever After Blu-ray, Video Quality
Ever After arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that looks—to me—like it was prepared from an old master intended for DVD. Don't get me wrong, this is definitely a high definition disc, it just shows DVD-like attributes, including some fairly strong edge enhancement, occasionally noticeable compression artifacts, and colors that seem slightly oversaturated at times. Clarity is adequate—revealing detail in the period costuming and the actors' faces—but you can tell that some effort has been made to sharpen the image after it was transferred, resulting in mild haloing on certain hard outlines. Likewise, color seems boosted at times—making skin tones overly ruddy—but not to the point of distraction. On the plus side, black levels are sufficiently deep and the grain structure of the 35mm image is left largely intact, although there are some specks on the print. I get the sense that the film could definitely look better with a proper, more up-to-date transfer.
Ever After Blu-ray, Audio Quality
I have no substantial complaints, however, about Ever After's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, which carries the film's limited sonic requirements well. There are really only a few action-intensive scenes—horse chases, brief scuffles and what-have-you—and these are presented in a mostly front-heavy fashion, with few cross-channel movements of any kind. Occasionally, though, you will hear some effects panned into the rear speakers, like the sound of wind, tweeting birds, or pouring rain. The surround channels are mostly used for George Fenton's orchestral score, which sounds just fine here. The effects, the ambience sound, and the music all come together in a balanced mix with plenty of punch and clarity, and dialogue is clean and expressive throughout.
Ever After Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Alas, the lone bonus feature on the disc is a standard definition theatrical trailer, running just shy of two minutes.
Ever After Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Ever After may not be an everlasting classic, but it's still much-beloved by followers of the fairytale princess genre. 20th Century Fox has gone the bare-bones route with this disc, though—with an old-looking transfer and no supplements to speak of—so fans may want to carefully consider whether they really need to upgrade from the DVD.
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Ever After Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Romance Blu-ray Wave from Fox in January - October 19, 2010
An early announcement to retailers indicates that 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment will release three romantic movies from its catalog on Blu-ray on January 4, 2011, in time for Valentine's Day: Ever After, starring Drew Barrymore and Dougray Scott; Hope Floats, ...
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