Disney+ film review: Godmothered
Ivan Radford | On 12, Dec 2020
Director: Sharon Maguire
Cast: Isla Fisher, Jillian Bell, Santiago Cabrera, Mary Elizabeth Ellis
Watch Godmothered online in the UK: Disney+
“Life isn’t as simple as happily ever after,” news reporter Mackenzie (Isla Fisher) tells Eleanor (Jillian Bell) early on in Godmothered. Eleanor, who has popped up to be Mackenzie’s fairy godmother, is a firm believer that happily ever afters do exist. The problem? She’s about 30 years too late: responding to 10-year-old Mackenzie’s letter calling for magical help, she arrives when the girl is a put-upon single mum who is still trying to move on from the loss of her husband several years ago.
What follows is a fish-out-of-water comedy that sees the naive Eleanor struggle to adjust to the jarring nature of real life – a place where vehicles aren’t pumpkins and mice aren’t behind the steering wheel. If you’re already thinking of Enchanted, you’re not alone: the culture-clash farce mines the same territory as Disney’s self-aware 2007 comedy, which saw Amy Adams play a princess taken from an animation and dropped in a big American city.
Enchanted was a smart, funny and ultimately sweet tale of learning to find magic where it does exist in real life. Godmothered tries to do something a little edgier, not only observing how unrealistic expectations driven by classic Disney stories are but also questioning whether those fairytale lessons should change to become relevant to modern life.
It’s a nuanced way to build on Enchanted’s success, but Godmothered doesn’t quite manage to pull it off, finding its tone wavering between cynical and sentimental from one scene to the next – there’s a genuine romantic interest in the offing, which we’re expected to cheer on, even as the notion of finding one’s Prince Charming is batted aside.
Isla Fisher is excellent as the jaded adult trying to keep going through the disruption that Eleanor brings, while Jillian Bell is deliberately awkward as the godmother who can’t quite bring the magic she dreams of – she’s assisted by a clumsy raccoon called Gary and accidentally conjures up a sleeping bag in place of a ball gown. But because the mood is inconsistent, Bell’s committed performance often ends up annoying as well as amusing, which leads to a conclusion that’s ultimately a tad underwhelming.
The film is at its best when Eleanor leads a busking session in the park, to encourage Mackenzie’s singer-songwriter daughter to overcome her stage fright; there’s real magic to be found here, away from the familiar chaotic set pieces that drive much of the runtime, but Godmothered doesn’t conjure up enough to really dazzle. Entertaining? Yes. Enchanting? Not quite.
Godmothered is available on Disney+, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription or a £59.99 yearly subscription.