Godmothered is Disney product. Written to a Disney template, cast, directed, lit and edited in an efficient business-like Disney way, it’s a comedy fairytale that popped off the production line and onto screens wrapped up all nicely and ready to go.
Its story even resembles an existing Disney film, Enchanted, the one about a fairytale character having a fish out of water experience in New York – comedy, romance, the full nine yards.
We’re in Boston this time, snow-encrusted, twinkly, Christmasy Boston, where magic is about to happen when klutzy trainee godmother Eleanor (Jillian Bell) arrives on an “assignment” to help out the little girl who wrote to her asking for help. Should Eleanor fail to help the little girl it’s curtains for her fellow godmothers, who thanks to brutal modern management diktats are threatened with redesignation as tooth fairies duo to a lack of interest in their godmothering offer.
But, wires having got crossed and time having passed, the little girl is no longer little. Mackenzie has managed to grow up, get married, have two kids and lose her husband and is now a character more familiar in a Disney movie than even a fairy godmother – the sad, stressed urban professional with no time for kids, family, love etc etc.
These are the familiar arcs – the godmother is on a Shrek-style quest to save her magical kingdom, while Mackenzie is going to save her soul by being a bit less like a working woman. Don’t shoot the messenger.
Familiar, huh? You know what – Godmothered is great. Corny, obvious but great, a smile here, a tear there, cosy and gaudy as a Christmas jumper, the sort of film you’re convinced you’ve already seen but sit through all over again just because.
To call the performances cookie-cutter sounds like an insult but isn’t. Everyone hits exactly the spot they’re meant to be hitting – Bell as the accident-prone naive godmother with wobbly wand skills and a huge heart, Isla Fisher as the cute, hassled news producer, Santiago Cabrera as the possible love interest co-worker, Jane Curtin as a wicked witch/evil queen figure, the godmother-in-chief who wants to close everything down. Everyone else – the kids with their own little problems, the dizzy narrator, the bonkers news anchors at the TV station where Mackenzie works, Mackenzie’s homely confidant sister, all slot perfectly into place, marshalled by director Sharon Maguire, who directed the two good Bridget Jones movies (one and three) and shows a similar skill here at just making everything work properly.
Write your own checklist and tick them off – a comedy animal (a raccoon called Gary), a kid throwing snowballs, a mean boss with a Scrooge-like disposition, classic music on the soundtrack (from Julie Andrews to Earth Wind and Fire) and on it goes.
The rom is Fisher’s, the com is Bell’s – both handle it well, though it’s Bell’s film by a country mile and towards the end it’s noticeable that the film starts to sag when the fairy godmother is forced off the screen by one of those she-goes-away-but-comes-back-triumphant plot twists.
However, that necessary absence is kept to an almost indecent minimum. This film knows what it’s doing. Chalk another one up to Disney.
© Steve Morrissey 2020