Imagine a Cinderella story that’s about something deeper than just a girl being swept off to become a princess. Ella Enchanted, a 2004 film starring Anne Hathaway, is exactly that: a fun film set in a medieval-style kingdom with fairies and elves that demonstrates the importance of freedom.
Based on the book of the same name by Gail Carson Levine, the film follows the young Ella, whose fairy godmother cast a spell of obedience on her as a baby. The spell compels her to follow any order given to her by anyone, which has disastrous effects on her life and relationships. Determined to free herself from this curse, she embarks on a quest to reverse the spell.
Along the way, she meets several other characters suffering from a lack of liberty in one form or another. She befriends the elf Slannen, who cannot pursue his dream job because his kind are legally limited to careers of singing and dancing. Later, she encounters an enslaved population of giants, driven to work the fields by their human masters.
All this oppression is the work of the tyrannical Edgar (Cary Elwes), uncle to the dashing Prince Charmont (Hugh Dancy). Throughout the film, Ella tries to open Charmont’s eyes to the importance of freedom in the hope that he will reform the kingdom when he ascends to the throne. “Nobody should be forced to do things they don’t want to do; take it from someone who knows,” she says.
Although the film deals with heavy topics, it is aimed at younger viewers, and the mood stays largely upbeat and fun. Music, dancing, and a dash of humor complement the story. Viewers will recognize familiar elements from the Cinderella story, such as a fairy godmother, an unpleasant step-family, and a ball, alongside new elements, such as a talking book and ogres.
Ella’s quest for personal freedom meets several roadblocks, and she’s hindered by those who take advantage of her curse of obedience. How will she free herself? What will she do when she’s ordered to commit an unthinkable act? Watch the movie to find out, and to enjoy a delightful celebration of freedom wrapped up in a fun Cinderella story.