With my being on crutches for another 6 weeks at the least, my wife and I wanted to sit down and watch a movie with our kids. The problem when you have a 10 and 6 year old is that they like different things and it's a challenge to find a movie that the entire family would like. (Neither of our children like scary movies or any intense freaky stuff so even the animated Sleeping Beauty with the dragon scene is out).
While going through Netflix, I stumbled across Ever After: A Cinderella Story--a gem from around the time when my wife and I first starting dating. The 1998 film is filled with a twist on Cinderella story: She rescues herself and holds her own debating philosophy and economic policy with the prince. That might not seem like a children's movie and might seem boring, but Drew Barrymore as Danielle (Cinderella) shines able to hold her own on screen and show a mix of passionate resolve and quiet sorrow.
As for what my children thought, we actually made it through the whole movie. They didn't get bored, fight during it or want to turn on something else. It's been a rare movie that the whole family can enjoy. For me, I loved seeing the castles filmed in the movie and to realize that there is no CGI effects in the film. The castles that you see are real, same with the people, costumes and the rest. The movie is small in scope, but the sweeping aerial shots of the castles broaden the film and enliven the movie with rich history.
What I had forgotten though was that Da Vinci is in this movie and I love how the writers give him modern values. It is Da Vinci who talks of love and the importance to find your match and how rare that is rather than marrying to status or money. He has some great one liners and between Barrymore's feisty portrayal of Cinderella and his wit the movie still was enjoyable for me after all these years. No, there's no magic and fairy godmothers, but that's the point in this version. All you need is yourself.
There's a particular scene with gypsies in which the prince and Danielle get captured that really stands out for me. It's a scene of swashbuckling sword fighting that suddenly goes wrong in which our heroes are trapped and without help. The solution to their predicament is refreshing and made me laugh. Ever After is the precursor to all our remakes of fairy tales: Snow White and the Huntsman, Once Upon a Time and the like. I like my children seeing a movie in which the heroine says the day by using her wits and intelligence rather than being swept off of her feet by a valiant prince. Last I checked, there are no princes doing that these days (if there were ever any who did that back in the day).
The movie isn't perfect yet I enjoyed it immensely. Critics gave in a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. You can't go wrong with this film if you're looking for some family fun. Yes, there's one really dark scene at the end with implied violence, but it only lasts a minute or two. Outside of that, the film is well worth your time. It's fun, witty and a solid romantic comedy.
Ron Vitale is the author of the Cinderella's Secret Diaries series who hopes that his own children will find their own happily ever after.