Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 3/5/99
Ever After: A
1998 (1999) - 20th Century
review by Bill Hunt,
editor of The Digital Bits
Director Andy Tennant's new telling of this classic story rings
surprisingly true. Drew Barrymore brings a refreshing honesty and
charm to the story's central character, and Anjelica Huston is
deliciously wicked as the infamous stepmother. Completely engaging.
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/B/D
Despite being non-anamorphic (a disappointment) the letterboxed
widescreen video is excellent. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is also
generally good. As for extras, only a theatrical trailer is
Overall Rating: B
The film is delightful, and the disc presents it in very good
quality indeed. The almost complete lack of extras and the
non-anamorphic transfer hamstring the DVD somewhat, but it's still
absolutely worth a look.
121 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), single-sided,
RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at ???), Amaray keep case packaging,
theatrical trailer, film-themed menu screens with animation and
sound, scene access (30 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1),
English & French (DD 2.0), subtitles: Spanish, Close Captioned
When I first saw the trailer for Ever
After in the theater, I could barely suppress a groan.
Edited like a music video, the trailer evoked the memory of another
film that I really disliked - the recent remake of Romeo
+ Juliet, starring Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio.
What a missed opportunity that film was. The production design was
nothing short of phenomenal, but you could never get a good look at
it, due to amateurish direction and haphazard, B-grade music
video-style camerawork. Not to mention the fact that no one but Paul
Sorvino seemed to have any understanding of the lines they were
spouting with such attitude. But I've really enjoyed Drew Barrymore
in just about everything she's done, so I gave Ever
After a shot. Imagine my surprise - Ever
After is a surprisingly new and satisfying spin on this
classic fairy tale.
The film's story is told by an old woman, to a pair of curious
writers (none other than the Brothers Grim). It goes like this
once upon a time, in 16th century France, there was a young girl
named Danielle. One day, Danielle's father (a widower) brings home a
new wife, the Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent (Anjelica Huston), and her
two young daughters. But before this new group can become a true
family, Danielle's father dies suddenly, leaving the Baroness in
charge of his estate. Years pass, and we learn that Danielle
(Barrymore) has been reduced to the level of a house servant, while
the Baroness has spoiled her own daughters rotten, and squandered
away the family fortune.
Meanwhile, the King has commanded that his son, Prince Henry
(Dougray Scott), marry a Spanish princess to cement a peace treaty.
Henry, disillusioned with his duty and his impending marriage, runs
away, stealing a horse in his escape attempt. As it happens, the
horse belongs to Danielle's family, and Danielle catches the Prince
in the act. She confronts him, without at first realizing who he is.
This first meeting leaves an impression on Henry (in more ways than
one). A few days later, Danielle sneaks onto the palace grounds,
posing as a Countess, to free one of the family servants, whom the
Baroness has sold into slavery. Once again, Danielle and Henry cross
paths, and though Henry doesn't realize this is the same girl who
accosted him, he's fascinated by her. When the King relents, and
gives Henry a week's time to find a girl he'd marry out of love,
Henry can think only of Danielle. But he has no idea how to find
her, or what her real name is. And the Baroness has her own plans as
to whom Henry should marry
namely her oldest daughter.
Ever After is an entirely
unique telling of the Cinderella
story. You'll find no magic pumpkins here - this is a story rooted
in the more mundane realm of everyday life. But in that reality, as
written by director Tennant and Susannah Grant, Ever
After finds a magic of its own. This is a film with
heart, and a sense of humor. The story, which is richly fleshed-out
beyond what I've outlined above, is completely engaging. Drew
Barrymore is equally engaging - all right, her English accent is
really terrible, but that's not the point. She brings a charmingly
evocative quality to Danielle, that you immediately identify with.
Danielle is a strong woman, idealistic and optimistic despite the
hardships of her station in life. Barrymore's performance is real -
it's honest. You can't help but be taken in by her. She centers the
film wonderfully, and allows the story to wind it's way around her.
And she is surrounded by a true rogue's gallery of fascinating
characters, acted to perfection by a terrific supporting cast.
Dougray Scott is well matched with Barrymore as Prince Henry -
there's a definite chemistry there. Moreover, the idea of a
disillusioned prince, who finds his life's purpose in the arms of a
servant girl, is a romantic notion indeed. Angelica Huston is simply
wonderful as Danielle's wicked stepmother. The film is interwoven
with numerous plots cast by the Baroness and her oldest daughter
Marguerite, and it's fun to watch Huston at work. She even manages
to evoke a rare moment of warmth towards Danielle, which serves to
greatly humanize the character (after all, even the nastiest
villians have some good in them - just ask Darth Vader). Instead of
a fairy godmother, we have here something of a wizard - not of
magic, but rather of science - Leonardo Da Vinci himself (Patrick
Godfrey), who has a number of funny moments. The King and Queen are
equally good, played with wit and humor by Timothy West and Judy
Parfitt. There's even a band of gypsy thieves, who add an element of
danger, some good action, and a humorous test of Danielle's
strength. There are several other characters as well - I've by no
means touched upon them all.
The video quality of this Fox DVD is very good in letterboxed
widescreen. It isn't anamorphic, which disappointed me greatly. But
the video suffers little for this, which is fortunate - this is a
very good looking film, with first-rate production design. The
colors are rich, yet not oversaturated. Skin tones are very natural
looking. The contrast is good, and there's excellent shadow detail.
The picture takes on a soft quality on occasion, but this was
present in the original film as I experienced it in the theater.
There are virtually no artifacts visible, digital or otherwise. All
in all, this is a very good transfer of a very good print. The Dolby
Digital 5.1 audio is also generally good, if not outstanding. There
are several scenes, particularly set in forest areas, where the rear
channels are used to create good ambiance. However, the audio does
tend to be somewhat hemispheric, with the dialogue sounding a bit
flat (if still natural). The musical score is not exceptional, but
is certainly adequate to the film, and is well mixed. Stereo
Surround is also available in both English and French, and there are
As for extras
well, other than the aforementioned theatrical
trailer, there aren't any. That's a shame, as this is a disc on
which I would have loved to see a making-of featurette, production
design artwork, or perhaps a commentary track. The story is so well
woven and acted, that I would have really enjoyed a look
behind-the-scenes. Still, the film is good enough that it stands on
its own. And at least the DVD version includes the original PG-13
version of the film seen in theaters - if you buy it on VHS, you'll
be missing a couple of objectionable lines of dialogue, in a
slightly edited PG version.
Ever After is completely
charming. I'm not a big fairy tale kind of guy, but I'm not ashamed
to say that I really enjoyed this film. It takes a unique, and
completely refreshing approach to a very familiar story, while
remaining very human, and true to the romantic spirit of the tale.
The DVD is overpriced, given the lack of extras, but the disc's
quality helps to make up for it, at least in part. If you can find
it for a good price, I highly recommend it.