Forced by a spell of pure obedience to do anything she's commanded, teenage Ella (Hathaway) sets off to break the charm, crossing paths with handsome young Prince Char (Dancy) and his nefarious uncle (Elwes) on her adventure.
Following Hilary Duff's Cinderella Story, Ella Enchanted offers 2004's second and superior twist on the tale of Cinderella.
This gal doesn't wait for her Prince Charming or, in this case, Prince Char to rescue her; instead she heads off on her own to break free of the spell that binds her, while helping elves and giants along the way, all of whom are being persecuted by evil ruler Sir Edgar.
As well as finding its roots in fairy tales, this also happily takes elements from other fairy-tale-referencing movies. So we get The Princess Bride's sense of humour (and that film's hero, Cary Elwes, as the bad guy) and the same mix of medieval setting and 21st century references we saw in Shrek and A Knight's Tale. It all works well, especially as director Tommy O'Haver populates his kingdom with some fun supporting actors, including Jimi Mistry, Eric Idle (as the narrator) and Steve Coogan as the voice of Edgar's conniving snake companion.
The comedy isn't too sharp, though, and there are some inadvisable song-and-dance numbers. But Anne Hathaway delivers another likeable performance in a tweenie treat that has enough smarts to keep older viewers engaged, too.
Aimed at girls young enough to believe in handsome, good-hearted princes, but amusing enough for the more cynical adults accompanying them.