assepoester_04Once upon a time the release of a new animated movie was something to be celebrated. They were rare treats, like cotton candy for the eyes. Fantasia brought music to life on screen, Bugs Bunny perfected the art of the smart Alec putdown and animators like Fritz Frieling and Norman McLaren spilled their active imaginations onto film cells.

Those golden days are gone.

Today’s animated movies usually are “animated” by computer techs more familiar with pixels and binary code than Walt Disney and written by people whose ideas don’t expand much beyond talking animals on a quest to get home / back to Africa or fractured fairy tales. Talking animals on the lam movies like The Wild, Madagascar and Open Season have plots so similar that even the five year olds who go see them must feel a sense of déjà vu. Happily N’Ever After doesn’t have many talking animals, thankfully, but falls squarely into the other category, the revised fairy tale movie.

George Carlin voices a wizard whose job it is to ensure that all the stories in Fairy Tale Land go “by the book” and the bad guys lose and the good people live happily ever after. When he goes on vacation his fairy tale scales are hijacked by an evil stepmother who tips the balance in favor of the bad guys. She out to prove that “dreams don’t come true.”

Bad things happen all over Fairy Tale Land. Rapunzel is pulled out her tower by the hair, Sleeping Beauty’s kisses have the opposite effect and push a handsome prince into a deep slumber and Cinderella’s date ends well before midnight.

Happily N’Ever After suffers by comparison to Shrek or even Hoodwinked, both of which had complete stories to support the jokes. Happily N’Ever After has some good laughs, but the movie feels more like a series of loosely connected skits than a whole. Not that kids will mind that much. It may not be a classic, but there is enough slapstick coupled with some fun voice work by the likes of Andy Dick, Signorney Weaver and Patrick Warburton to keep the younger members of the family entertained.