'Happily N'Ever After': Fairy tale gone wrong

When "Hoodwinked" came out a year ago, it felt like a poor man's "Shrek."

Guess that makes "Happily N'Ever After" a poor man's "Hoodwinked."

It wouldn't seem possible, but this is another fairy tale in which the characters subvert their own genre in self-conscious, smart-alecky fashion. The doofus prince (voiceover veteran Patrick Warburton) knows what to say and do because a book tells him to. The wizard's diminutive assistants (Wallace Shawn and Andy Dick), who help keep control of the story lines in Fairy Tale Land, are bored silly watching Sleeping Beauty and Rumplestiltskin do the same things over and over.

That is, until the power-hungry evil stepmother (Sigourney Weaver), who's tired of happy endings herself, takes control and turns everything upside down.

It might have been a clever idea; instead, the film from directors Paul J. Bolger and Yvette Kaplan and writers Rob Moreland and Doug Langdale consists of a few snappy one-liners and too much filler.

After an hour, this thing just dies, and Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr., as Cinderella and Rick the serving boy, are the last people you want trying to revive it. Could there be a more boring real-life couple around whom to build a movie?

Gellar's character - Ella, as she's known - does have the distinction of resembling Audrey Hepburn, though, as she suffers under the demands of her shrill stepmom, Frieda, and dreams of meeting Prince Humperdink at the ball. Rick, who derides the prince as a pretty boy although he is one himself with his sleek bob and strong cheekbones, dreams of one day being with Ella.

When the wizard (George Carlin in all of two scenes, what a waste) goes on vacation, his bumbling minions are left in charge of Fairy Tale Land, and things quickly spiral out of control. Frieda, who's at the palace for the ball, jumps upon this moment of instability to seize the wizard's power for herself. This mainly consists of rounding up all the ogres, trolls and witches in town, along with various giants and wolves, and urging them to wreak havoc.

Mostly, though, they just sit around drinking and eating. And Ella and Rick, while fighting to put Fairy Tale Land back together again, also fight their growing romantic urges for each other. (Yawn.)

Gee, wonder how that story will turn out in the end. film review

'Happily N'Ever After'

1.5 stars

Rating: PG for rude humor, mild action. Director: Paul J. Bolger. Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr., Sigourney Weaver. Running time: 85 min.