The Book: 1997
Written by Gail Carson Levine (HarperCollins)
The Film: 2004
Directed by Tommy O’Haver (Miramax Films)
I watched the film version of Ella Enchanted years ago and frankly wasn’t that impressed by it. Actually it ruined any interest I might have had in reading the book. But after much protesting from a friend who assured me that the book was worth it, I picked up a copy—and if I didn’t have to go to work I would have read it cover to cover. I LOVED the book! It was fantastical, romantic, funny and sweet (it was so great I wrote a review about just it so I could bend your ear about its greatness even more).
I’ve watched the movie since and my original evaluation still holds. The movie is incredibly silly. Needlessly so. And the plot is nothing like the one in the book. They’ve taken the skeleton of Gail Carson Levine’s fairy tale and filled it in with their own story. Here’s what’s the same:
- Ella of Frell has been the gift of obedience from a fairy
- Ella’s father remarries, leaving Ella with two horrible stepsisters
…and that’s it!
Pretty much everything else is different than the book, including the climax. In the book, Ella’s fear of endangering Char with her curse is enough of an issue. The film makes those fears a reality with a murder plot against the prince’s life. Perhaps they thought the book didn’t have enough action for a feature film… Also in the movie, Prince Charmont’s parents have been killed off, leaving Char in the custody of his power-hungry uncle, Edgar (a character only in the film). It kind of makes me angry just how many details were changed for the film, especially Ella’s fairy godmother Mandy. In the book Mandy is a very strong character; in the movie she is a bit of a nitwit.
I can see why the movie charms children with its larger-than-life characters, physical comedy and all the absurd orders Ella is forced to obey, but next to the magic of the novel the film just feels cheesy and over the top. And those song and dance numbers!? What was that!? The book is a fairy tale to be treasured; the film is something likely to end up in a discount bin. I definitely enjoyed reading the book over watching the film.
“Popcorn and a Book” is a bi-weekly meme I host where I compare one book with its adapted film, looking at the content, the way it has been visualized, the experience, etc. If you would like to participate in this meme, please visit the “Popcorn and a Book” main page for details.