Once upon a time will n’ever be the same again. Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and Jack from the Beanstalk are all about to live happily ever after when the balance between good and evil gets thrown out of whack. It’s up to Cinderella — aka Ella (Sarah Michelle Gellar) — to save the day by taking on her power hungry stepmother, Frieda (Sigourney Weaver). But this time, Ella will have to do it without her Prince Charming (Patrick Warburton) as she joins forces with an unlikely army of dwarves, fairies, and the wizard’s bumbling assistants, Mambo (Andy Dick) and Munk (Wallace Shawn). Your favorite fairy tales are turned upside down in this funny, fast-paced adventure that teaches the lesson that — no matter who you are — you have the power to affect how your story turns out!
For more about Happily N'Ever After and the Happily N'Ever After Blu-ray release, see Happily N'Ever After Blu-ray Review published by Sir Terrence on March 31, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.0 out of 5.
I am a huge lover of animation, especially when it is well done in every way. My idea of good animation would be Cars, Ratatouille, Monster House, Valiant and Happy Feet. Happily N'ever After does not belong on the same planet as these great animation titles. This movie is so poorly constructed and busy; I thought the director was just coming off a five-day-old drug binge before he began production. It appears that I am not alone in my opinion. Happily N'ever After had its theatrical release on January 5, 2007, and on its opening weekend cleared only $6.6 million at the box office. It when on to gross just shy of $31 million dollars worldwide, short of its production budget of $47 million dollars, and earned the title of one of the worst films of 2007. Critics panned it as being a rip off of Shrek, and Shrek 2, and it is not just by happenstance that the same producer that made those films also made this film. What I found shocking is that the same studio that created this disaster of an animation movie also created an excellent animation movie called Valiant. How do you go from creating an animation movie that good to this? Everything but the kitchen sink is thrown in the mix, and I am speaking of every bad cliché, plot point, joke, and inside joke in the world. Things that are supposed to be clever just come off as stale, uninspiring and really not so funny. I must state that this was the longest eighty-six minutes I have ever spent in front of my display; hating something so profoundly I wanted to drink myself to death.
The future looks Grimm
As we open the story, we are introduced to the idea that the Wizard(George Carlin) controls all of the classic fairy tales, and maintains the balance of good and evil in Fairy Tale Land. With the help of his assistants, the Wizard is checking to make sure that all the fairy tales under his care are "on track" to have their traditional happy endings. As we are introduced to him, the Wizard is leaving for Scotland for a long-overdue vacation. He leaves the kingdom in the hands of his two assistants, the uptight Munk(Wallace Shawn) and the decidedly goofy Mambo(Andy Dick). This was a huge mistake. Ella, short for Cinderella(Sarah Michele Gellar), a damsel in distress, is dreaming of the Prince(Patrick Warburton) who will sweep her off her feet, and take her to a better life. Rick( Ella best friend in the palace) takes it upon himself to deliver the invitations to the royal ball to Ella. Ella occasionally visits Rick(Freddie Prinze Jr.) in the palace kitchen to borrow items she needs to complete her chores and to share her hopes of dancing with "him" (the Prince) tonight. Ella sees Rick only as a friend, but Rick secretly loves Ella, although he is too cool and proud to admit it. Though Ella has received an invitation to the ball, her stepmother the evil Freida(Sigorney Weaver) makes her attendance impossible by assigning enough chores to keep her busy for the evening. As her stepmother and sisters leave for the ball, Ella begins her chores, but is quickly interrupted by her fairy god-Mother who preceeds to get her ready for the ball. However, things don't go as planned at the ball. Thanks to the assistants, Ella's evil stepmother, Frieda, gains access to the Wizard's lair during the Prince's ball. While the boss is away, the wicked stepmother does play. Frieda manages to chase off Munk and Mambo and tip the scales of good and evil, causing a series of fairy tales to go wrong and have comically unhappy endings. Ella then is left along with Mambo and Munk with the job of defeating her step-mother, and return things back to the way they were.
Happily N'After comes to Bluray as a rather good looking 1080p/MPEG-2 encode. As a direct to digital telecine transfer it is very clean and beautiful to behold. This release has some of the boldest, most vivid colors I have seen on animation, let alone high definition animation. Everything is skewed towards darker shades of primary colors such as red becoming more crimson, blues pushed toward midnight, and green with more black mixed in to give a darker, richer looking green. The colors and hues are mixed together in a way that creates a very rich pallete that is dynamic, with eye catching vividness that make for a very pleasureable look. The most stiking colors appear to be the cooler shades of the color wheel which are punched up and mixed together in a very unique way. The animation itself is not the more sophisticated three deminsional type of animation like that of Pixar, but more reminiscent of the old Disney draw and paint type. However it takes it up a notch by providing moving backgrounds of leaves and shrubbery that lends a more realistic look than the older Disney animation which largely consisted of stagnant non moving backgrounds. Blacks are solid and deep, sharpness, detail, and micro detail are excellent, which gives the picture a nice three deminsional look.
All is not perfect though. There is a bit of noise in a few shots, especially on flat surfaces that feature intense, solid patches of red or blue. There is also a slight bit of banding on smooth gradients. These compression problems are don't occur very often, but they are noticeable enough to catch my attention. These issues keep me from giving an excellent presentation a perfect score.
Comparing the picture quality of this release to the DVD, you get a much cleaner, natural looking picture. Running on my screen, split, and side by side the DVD looks "digital", a little noisier, flat and two dimensional, but no less vividly colorful. Areas that had noise on the Bluray release had more noise on the DVD. In the end there is no competition between the two, the Bluray release was superior in every way.
The video quality of this release is quite good, and the audio matches the video nicely. Lionsgate has provided a terrific Dts Master Audio Lossless 5.1 track accompanied by a English and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround tracks, each at 448kbps. I was only able to access the core 1.5mbps, but the mix was good enough to come across quite well at this bit rate. The sound field is very well filled out with nice effects that move fluidly around the room, with no jumping or ping poinging to be heard. Dialog is fully directionalized, clear, and never squashed by other elements in the mix. Inter channel imaging was excellent. Sidewall images were stable, well-defined, effectively moving images outside the walls of my listening room. Rear wall imaging was less successful in the stability area, sounding diffused, insinuated but not solid or well defined, which makes for a less than 360 degree sound field. Dynamics were excellent, and when pushed, the sound never breaks up at high levels. The music is well rendered, but not enveloping. It sounds restricted to the frontal soundstage, never quite making it to the surrounds. However instrumental timbre and texture is very good, sounding quite natural and uncolored. Bass is strong, mostly restricted to the LFE, as I found almost no bass below 40hz in the main channels according to my RTA's.
When you compare the main Dts MA track with the Dolby Digital on DVD and the Dolby Digital on this release there is just no competition. The Dolby Digital on DVD and the Dolby Digital tracks on the Bluray sound exactly alike, I could hear no difference between the two, and I shouldn't since they are both encoded at 448kbps. However when you put that up against the Dts soundtracks, it sounds flat soundstage wise, bass is not quite as tight and well defined. Overall refinement is lost on the DD tracks, side wall imaging not quite as distinct and stable, instrument texture and timbre does not come across as well as on the Dts track.
In spite of the fact that this movie did so poorly, Lionsgate didn't short shrift this Bluray disc on supplemental material. They have ported over all of the extra's that are included on the DVD release. There are three featurettes that start things to going. "Journey of the Characters in the Enchanted Forest" (16 minutes) and "Creating the Happily Story: Bringing N'Ever After to Life" (also 16 minutes) Director Paul J. Bolger guides us through this portion, giving us a peek at the development of the characters in the movie. The third featurette "From Storyboard to Fairy Tale: A Comparison,"(5 minutes) which provides a before-and-after split-screen comparison highlighting various scenes from the film. Next up is the commentary track by Director Paul Bolger followed by "Lost in Fairy Tale Lane" deleted scenes and the "Happily N'Ever After?' alternate ending. Both total about 6 minutes. The deleted scenes would have added nothing to the finished product
Last but not least are three extra's directed for the kids. We start off "Games from the Department of Fairy Tale Security" with "Munk's Fairy Tale Fix," and "Mambo and Munk's Magical Matchmaker" and "Create Your Own Witches Broom." The graphics here are not sophisticated, but much more rudimentary then the movie itself. Everything in the supplemental material is presented in 4:3 aspect ratio encoded at 480i/MPEG-2.
I love animation. Its my favorite genre of movie to watch when I sit in my home theater. I have seen so many really good animation movies over the years, and I know that each has something for someone. I am sure someone will enjoy Happily N'ever After when they cue it up in their Bluray player. I am just not that someone. As much as I tried to like this movie, ultimately I gave up. There are just too many different pieces of stock in this soup, and it just muddled the flavor. As I was watching Paul Bolger passionately discussing how it took him years to make this picture, I sat there wondering if he realized that he has essentially wasted those years. I am sure it was his intention to create a very entertaining movie for everyone, he just was not successful this time around. He instead created a movie that looks good, but lacks substance, coherence, and clarity. I would highly recommend that you rent this movie first if you have any interest.
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