Many of us heard stories growing up of the concept of living “Happily Ever After”. One day we’d find our prince or princess and everything would be right as rain, with no further obstacles to get in our way. However, one of the hardest truths is that this isn’t a realistic goal. Life, as many of us learned the hard way this year, is unpredictable and full of challenges that can knock us down. It’s up to us to determine if we get back up and move forward. In GODMOTHERED, by switching the message to discovering happiness overs pursuing a “Happily Ever After”, the film shapes new goals for its audience – both young and old alike.
GODMOTHERED is directed by Sharon Maguire and written by Kari Granlund and Melissa Stack. Capturing the fairytale quality that will remind many of Enchanted, the film takes us through familiar notes for its characters to overcome before landing on its lesson. The film stars Jillian Bell and Isla Fisher, who are supported by June Squibb, Jane Curtin, Santiago Cabrera, Jillian Shea Spaeder, Willa Skye, and Mary Elizabeth Ellis.
GODMOTHERED focuses on Eleanor (Jillian Bell), a young, naive fairy godmother-in-training who refuses to accept that her job is being axed. Upon realizing that there are no further assignments for fairy godmothers, as the world no longer believes in “Happily Ever After”, Eleanor discovers a misplaced letter from a young girl. Using this as her reason to prove to the fairies in Motherland that fairy godmothers are still needed, she tracks down the girl, Mackenzie, only to discover that she is all grown up. Mackenzie (Isla Fisher) is now a single mom working to try to support her two daughters after the death of her husband years earlier. She has long since given up on “Happily Ever After,” let alone just being happy. However, Eleanor is determined to makeover Mackenzie’s life so that she can prove that there is a purpose for fairy godmothers after all.
Harking back to live-action kids films of the 2000s in both story and execution, GODMOTHERED itself is predictable and safe. However, for the audience watching this in the year of our lord COVID, predictable and safe storytelling during the holiday season may feel like a balm to the soul. What makes the film flounder, though, is the handling of certain storylines (i.e. romantic subplots, evil fairy godmothers) that fail to be either interesting or convincing to its audience.
There are moments within the story, though, that do work. And, when they work, they work. Eleanor becomes fascinated by The Sound of Music (I can’t blame her) and when taking out Mackenzie’s kids, there’s a musical sequence that flows naturally in its situational awkwardness. The side storyline of Jane (Jillian Shea Spaeder) battling with crippling performance anxiety is relatable and never feels forced. When the arc is hit, it feels earned. And the inclusion of woodland creatures helping out around the house with a little sass reminds us that this is, in fact, a fairytale come to life.
The cast of GODMOTHERED works hard to elevate the story beyond the page, even when the character motivations and storylines don’t entirely make sense. Jillian Bell, in particular, shines as Eleanor. While not stuck in perpetual infantilization like Amy Adams’ Giselle in Enchanted, there is an earnestness and naivety that she naturally works into the role. As Eleanor learns more about the world and realizes what needs to be done to make fairy godmothers useful again, we see through Bell’s performance the subtle maturation of Eleanor. If you decide to watch this film, do it for Jillian Bell and her timing, performance, and physical comedic shenanigans.
One decision that is baffling is the ending scene back in Motherland. After spending the majority of GODMOTHERED in live-action, we are thrown into an animated conclusion. We saw a version of this in Enchanted, but there was a reason for that animated decision. In the context of that film, it provided continuity. We don’t have that in GODMOTHERED. Instead, the animation, while absolutely gorgeous and adorable, is just tossed at its audience. I may be the outlier on this, but it just felt out of place given the rest of the film.
GODMOTHERED is cute, safe, and predictable. There are moments in the film that are notably forced like the romantic subplot with Mackenzie and Moira coming across as unnecessarily evil. When the script works, though, it works. I’d argue that it won’t be entirely memorable in the longterm but, as a distraction from the world, it’ll do what it was intended to do. What stands out the most is Jillian Bell’s performance as Eleanor. While the story itself is not the best or most thought out, the message of just living happily rather than focusing on the “Happily Ever After” hits home even more so this year. And, if there is anything to take away, it should be that.
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