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Failed It/Nailed It: Which of these Fractured Fairy Tales Got it Right?

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Failed It: Ella Enchanted


I first read Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine when I was 14 years old. I was immediately captivated by the story: it’s a loose retelling of Cinderella, but with way more mythical creatures and a headstrong heroine named Ella, who’s “blessed” as a child with the gift of obedience. But the gift—given by a clueless, but kind-hearted, fairy named Lucinda—is more of a curse, forcing Ella to agree to anything anyone asks of her. Because she can’t refuse, she puts herself and those she loves in danger and becomes prey to some truly nasty stepsisters. It’s not until she meets and falls in love with Charmont (or Char for short), the prince of Frell, that she learns how strong she really is.

I cannot stress how good this book is. Romantic, funny and touching with a strong message for any young girl: the strength to think and act for yourself comes from within. While most fairy tales paint women as lovely creatures who need to be rescued, Ella Enchanted shows us a fairy tale heroine we want to root for. Which is why it’s a shame that the 2004 film version is such a gigantic, campy mess.


The talent in this movie is a little staggering: Anne Hathaway stars as Ella with Hugh Dancy as Char. But not even they can save this strange, comically bad adaptation. Instead of recognizing the true moral implications of not being able to say no (as the book clearly does) the film plays it off as a joke, making Ella an activist for underrepresented magical people like elves and giants. She and Char have to uncover kingdom-wide corruption and instead of letting her obedience dilemma take the forefront, a large part of her role in the film involves shaping Char into a strong leader.

Plus, there’s singing. I wish I were joking.

Instead of the funny satire they were going for the movie falls flat, missing all of the charm of the book. This is one of those adaptations that will break your heart, forcing you to watch your favorite book destroyed on the screen. Take my advice: read Ella Enchanted a million times, but skip this major fail of a film.

Nailed It: The Princess Bride


If you haven’t see The Princess Bride, stop reading this and go watch it. Seriously, I’ll wait for you.

SO GOOD, RIGHT? From Andre the Giant, to the Dread Pirate Roberts, to that epic sword fight—I adore everything about this movie.

Both Ella Enchanted and The Princess Bride take stories that are half-satires of traditional fairy tales and try to translate that humor onto the screen. But while Ella fails miserably, The Princess Bride flawlessly balances humor and heart. You’re laughing even as you’re crying. You’re rooting for the good guys even when their stories veer into the ridiculous.

I actually saw this movie before I read the book, but I loved it so much I had to look up the source material. Good news: William Goldman’s novel is just as fun, smart, interesting, and unique. It tells the story of the beautiful Buttercup who finds her true love in her family’s farmhand, Westley. He leaves to find a fortune before marrying her, but is killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts. Devastated, she agrees to marry the local prince instead, though her heart will always belong to Westley. But she’s kidnapped before her wedding, then kidnapped again by an unexpected outlaw. From there, the story goes nuts, with Fire Swamps, Rodents of Unusual Size, Zoos of Death, miracle workers, etc.

The movie and the book are pretty similar, which might be why the film nailed it so completely. It’s a classic at this point, but for a good reason: if you love stories of love, revenge, loyalty, and adventure, then The Princess Bride is for you.

Do you agree? Do you have another Failed It/Nailed It in mind? Let us know in the comments!

Rachel Carter grew up surrounded by trees and snow and mountains. She graduated from the University of Vermont and Columbia University, where she received her MFA in nonfiction writing. She is the author of the So Close to You series with Harperteen. These days you can find her working on her next novel in the woods of Vermont.

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