[Screen It]


(2020) (Jillian Bell, Isla Fisher) (PG)

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Dramedy: A novice fairy godmother tries to help a TV news producer find her happily ever after.

With fewer regular people believing in fairy tales and living happily ever after, times have turned bleak in the Motherland where would-be godmothers receive their training under headmistress Moira (JANE CURTAIN). It's gotten so bad that Eleanor (JILLIAN BELL) has been the only new applicant in decades and despite support from her much older friend, Agnes (JUNE SQUIBB), it doesn't look good for the young woman, what with rumors that the entire program will soon be shuttered and everyone turned into tooth fairies.

Realizing she needs to complete just one assignment in order to pass and thus hopefully keep the school open, Eleanor scours the records room for any outstanding plea and finds one from Mackenzie Walsh, a 10-year-old girl who's written a letter asking for help in getting a boy to notice her. Eleanor jumps at the chance and without permission from Moira heads through a portal to Boston to search for the girl. What she finds, however, is that Mackenzie (ISLA FISHER) is a grown-up TV news producer who's long since given up thoughts of any sort of happily ever after.

Part of that stems from having a boss, Grant (UTKARSH AMBUDKAR), who wants sensationalized news stories, something that doesn't sit well with Mackenzie, her on-air reporter, Hugh (SANTIAGO CABRERA), or their camera operator, Duff (ARTEMIS PEBDANI). Then there's the fact that Mackenzie has to rely on her sister, Paula (MARY ELIZABETH ELLIS), to care for her girls, Jane (JILLIAN SHEA SPAEDER) and Mia (WILLA SKYE), what with their father having killed in a car accident right before Christmas a few years ago.

Undeterred by the change in parameters, and despite not having a full handle on her magic and not understanding how everything and everyone operates on Earth, Eleanor sets out to make Mackenzie happy, all while the harried mom initially believes this newcomer is crazy and then reluctantly allows her into her life.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10

Back in 2007, Disney put a fun if not developed to its full creative extent, spin on fairy tales with "Enchanted." In that, Amy Adams played a cartoon princess who, along with other similar characters, ended up transported into the real world, eventually resulting in the princess having a slight change of heart about fairy tale love and happily ever afters.

The Mouse House returns to somewhat familiar territory with "Godmothered," a comedy with a message about a godmother in training, Eleanor (Jillian Bell), traveling to the real world -- that being Boston in this case -- before she's ready.

She's flown the coop, so to speak, because she's heard word that the fairy godmother training center -- somewhat creepily called The Motherland, although I get the "mother" part -- is going to be shut down. And that's because Eleanor is the only new student there in decades and with people not believing in fairy tales and happily ever after like before, there's no reason to keep the place running.

So, to prove she's got what it takes, she finds a letter from a 10-year-old girl, Mackenzie Walsh, asking for fairy godmother help to get a boy to like her, and sets off for Beantown to make that happen. But when she gets there -- in true fish out of water fashion where everything is foreign to her -- she learns that the girl has grown up into a disillusioned mother (Isla Fisher) of two daughters (Jillian Shea Spaeder and Willa Skye).

She doesn't like her TV producer job -- where she works alongside her field reporter (Santiago Cabrera) and camera operator (Artemis Pebdani) -- due to their boss (Utkarsh Ambudkar) wanting sensationalistic, tabloid type stories to boost the ratings. But she's mainly given up on a happily ever after life due to her husband dying a few years back in a car accident right before Christmas.

And thus the stage is set for Eleanor to make things right, all while repeatedly messing up other matters due to her not fully understanding this new world (such as thinking Siri is a genie in a bottle that shouldn't be left out) and not having honed her magical skills yet.

Unlike "Enchanted" that at least partially upended the usual "happily ever after" fairytale parameters, this one pretty much goes by the book, with just a tiny switcheroo at the ending that, frankly, and while correct in its messaging, sort of feels rushed and shoehorned into the overall plot.

There's a scant subplot that introduces a time deadline -- where the fairy godmother headmistress (Jane Curtain) has to try and find Eleanor before the portal back to the Motherland closes and thus strands the novice in Boston with her magic stripped -- but that doesn't do much to give the film any sense of urgency.

As a result, director Sharon Maguire -- working from a script by Melissa K. Stack and Kari Granlund -- can only do so much to make this 110-minute offering interesting for anyone outside of younger kids who might still be enamored with the notion of fairy godmothers and the rest of that related universe. Everyone else will likely have the same sort of "meh" reaction as I did.

With more creativity and imagination on all levels, this might have become some level of a classic. As it stands, it's going to need a fairy godmother to cast a spell over you to make you think it's better than it is. "Godmothered" rates as a 5 out of 10.

Reviewed December 1, 2020 / Posted December 4, 2020

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