The residents of Fairy Tale Land [Canada was taken, eh?] have a wee problem – Cinderella's wicked stepmother has stumbled onto the means to permanently upset the balance between Good and Evil in every fairy tale. You'd think that would make for a fresh twist on the subject, but you might well be wrong…
When the wizard responsible for the balance of Good and Evil in Fairy Tale Land [voiced by George Carlin] goes on vacation, he leaves the actual balance – and his powerful staff – in the hands of his incompetent, quarrelsome apprentices, Mambo [Andy Dick] and Munk [Wallace Shawn]. This, it turns out, is a Bad Idea. No sooner has the wizard departed, than the idiots start messing with the order of things.
Meanwhile, Frieda [Sigourney Weaver] and her two ugly daughters prepare for The Ball – leaving poor Cinderella [Sarah Michele Gellar] with a workload big enough to kill a troll. Naturally, Ella's fairy godmother intervenes and she is able to make it to The Ball. Unfortunately, just as she's dazzling the incredibly dim Prince Charming [Patrick Warburton, who is never not funny], Frieda discovers the manner in which the order of things is maintained – and manages to steal the wizard's staff.
It would probably be an understatement to say all heck breaks loose: the Big Bad Wolf eats Grandma and Little Red Riding Hood; Rumplestiltskin gets the baby, and when the prince kisses Sleeping Beauty, he falls asleep…]. Before you know it, the bad guys are in charge.
Which brings us to our narrator, Rick [Freddie Prinze Jr.], who works in the kitchen [translation: dishwasher]. Rick has a crush on Ella, who's so besotted with the idea of marrying Prince Charming that she's completely unable to see that he's dimmer than a two-watt bulb.
Of course, when the bad guys take over, they deign to chat with Rick – even inviting him to drink with them – so Rick is lulled into thinking they can't be so bad…
Happily N'Ever After desperately wants to be hip, cool and a whirlwind of wit. Unfortunately, most of the gags do. The characters are frequently way too obvious; the pacing is herky-jerky; and there seems to be little actual imagination at play.
There are a few exceptions [the witches' air force resembles a cross between the Luftwaffe and Hell's Angels; Rumplestiltskin seems to be in over his head as a potential parent, and Patrick Warburton's by-the-book prince], but by and large, the movie is predictable and far too safe. Younger children may find the movie charming, but this is one CG movie that won't work for most adults. Shrek III and Ratatouille certainly won't be worrying about this one, come Oscar