Jillian Bell is hilarious as a klutzy fairy godmother-in-training in this deceptively-fun fractured fairy tale.
In Godmothered, fairy-godmothers-to-be follow the rules outlined in their training to the letter: there must be a dress, a carriage, and of course, true love and happily ever after. And in a way, the film follows the rules, too. It’s standard family-friendly fare, a collection of slapstick, animal sidekicks, and a treacly moral that’s too obvious to miss. But the thing about rules is that they often come into existence because they work. And while that’s not necessarily the case in the story it’s telling, it certainly holds true for the film itself.
Godmothered is not earth-shattering or genre bending or particularly innovative. But it’s rock solid fun.
Jillian Bell (Brittany Runs a Marathon, Bill and Ted Face the Music) sparkles as bubbly godmother-in-training Eleanor. When she realizes the fate of fairy godmothers themselves is at stake, she strikes out on her own to save them. If she can just tie up one last case in a happily ever after, maybe she can prove the world still needs their magic after all. The only trouble is that the little girl she’s in search of isn’t a little girl anymore. She’s harried single mom Mackenzie (Isla Fisher) now and she definitely doesn’t believe in fairy tales. Cue magical hijinx.
The result is like a mashup of the best parts of Elf and Enchanted that creates something sweet in its own right. Does Godmothered ever reach the highs of either of those two films? No. But writers Melissa Stack and Kari Granlund have a clear understanding of exactly what made those films so good. That’s why they can do a good enough job replicating it to make something thoroughly enjoyable, even if it never shines as brightly.
At its core, Godmothered is fun and very little else. But it doesn’t really need to be more than that.
Bell’s effervescent performance isn’t just charming, it’s a big part of what makes the entire film work at all. Her comedic timing is so on point, she somehow manages to make jokes I’ve heard a dozen times land with a laugh. When she takes her first car ride with Mackenzie and endlessly fiddles with every single switch or dial she can find, her shocked and terrified yelp of “who’s talking?!” when she accidentally turns on the radio is funny in a way I can’t explain. It’s a well-worn gag, but Bell somehow breathes a little more life into it.
Fisher isn’t quite as believable as your everyday single mom, but she plays well with Bell allowing you to roll with it.
Director Sharon Maguire clearly knows how to put all the pieces of this puzzle together. It shouldn’t be too shocking, though, considering she not only directed the smash-hit Bridget Jones’s Diary, but its most recent sequel Bridget Jones’s Baby—which is far better than it had any right to be. In fact, the only truly shocking thing is that Godmothered is only Maguire’s fourth film since Bridget’s premiere nearly 20 years ago.
She clearly has a knack for pulling excellence out of her material, and you shouldn’t overlook that skill here merely because it’s a kids’ flick. Godmothered had every opportunity to fall flat in the utterly forgettable way so many holiday kids’ films do.
But it doesn’t.
It’s charming and soft and sweet and frankly funnier than it should be. It also actually has something interesting to say about the “happily ever after” trope as a whole. It’s not quite smart enough to fully dismantle it, but it does a good job of investigating it. Godmothered supposes that perhaps the best kinds of happily ever after don’t necessarily have anything to do with a prince or a kiss after all.
When you add that messaging to everything else Godmothered does well, you end up with a film actually worth the ticket price if Disney gave it a theatrical release. It may never work its way into repeat-viewing territory, but it’ll definitely bring you a little joy on a Friday night and that’s good enough.
Godmothered is currently streaming on Disney+.
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