At last, Bill Condon’s hotly anticipated reimagining of the beloved Disney animated feature (and umpteenth adaptation of the famous fairy tale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont) hits theatres. With an all-star cast and new songs by Alan Menken and Tim Rice, filling in for the still missed Howard Ashman, it’s fair to say this tale as old as time will find many willing new ears, and more than a few old ones.
So, after you’ve watched it (and probably the animated one for the millionth time), what could you and your family enjoy if you’ve still got that itch for wholesome magic and whimsy? What else could give you the adventure and thrills of far off lands and wondrous sights? Well, fear not, because I have four possible yarns that may give all of you a truly happy ending.
1. Ever After: A Cinderella Story (1998)
A stylized reimaging of arguably the most famous of fairytales, this 90s version of Cinderella takes cues from Princess Bride in presenting not just a deconstructionist swashbuckler, but also a smarter, more athletic and determined lead in Danielle, the daughter of a late 16th century French baron whose fortune has dwindled due to the avarice of his second wife and her two daughters. One day, she stumbles upon a horse thief who turns out to be the prince, and well, love blooms.
Reaffirming Andy Tennant’s once great potential as a filmmaker (before he flushed it away making lacklustre romcoms like The Bounty Hunter), Ever After is a sweet yet spunky twist on the iconic fairytale. Drew Barrymore’s energetic yet also mature performance forms a huge part of this, creating possibly the most human and three-dimensional Cinderella to grace screens. Not to be outdone, Anjelica Huston has great fun as the Wicked Stepmother, and Dougray Scott has the looks and charisma for a fairytale prince. This is cloaked in a Renaissance painting-esque visual palette, walking that line of storybook and period piece, and a moving, heartwarming score by the grossly underrated George Fenton. It has something for men and women alike. Romance, comedy and gizmos by DaVinci: What’s not to love?
2. Laputa: Castle In The Sky (1986):
One of the earlier, and less well known or acclaimed, Hayao Miyazaki films, this steampunk anime is about young Pazu, who one day saves Sheeta, a girl who falls from the sky. Turns out, she’s a princess with the key to an ancient power, and sky pirates and politicians want this for themselves. Chases across land, sea and sky abound as Pazu and Sheeta work to outwit their dastardly foes and uncover the secrets of Laputa.
Much like the Spielberg productions dominating theatres at this time (Indiana Jones, Goonies, Young Sherlock Holmes), Miyazaki crafts an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride that offers increasingly bigger and more exciting setpieces as it goes along. Car chases along collapsing bridges, aerial dogfights, ancient robots wreaking havoc, it’s all incredibly exciting and probably some of the best action in the history of animation. Of course, it helps we have two likeable protagonists with a genuine youthful charm and chemistry about them, though the anti-hero sky pirate family nearly steal the show. If you liked Porco Rosso or Nausicca, you owe it to yourself to see this one, dub or sub.
3. Ladyhawke (1985):
Having made you believe a man can fly in 1978, Richard Donner next tried to make you believe in a fantasy world of warlock-bishops and shapeshifting lovers. Young thief Philippe ‘The Mouse’ escapes execution, only to be embroiled in the unfortunate love affair of Isabeu and Etienne, cursed by the vile Bishop of Aquila to become an animal for a set time of day, while the other is a human, thus making it impossible to consummate their love.
Perhaps a little dated, mainly down to an unusual synth soundtrack that feels more at home in a sci-fi thriller than a Medieval fantasy, Donner’s yarn is still a fun time. In fact, it sort of has the kind of tongue in cheek humour that would come to define the methods Zorro and Pirates Of The Caribbean would adopt years later. Also helps when you have three strong central performances, with Matthew Broderick ably playing the reluctant bumbler while Michelle Pfieffer has a perfect otherworldliness to her, as well as vibrant cinematography courtesy of the one and only Vittorio Storaro that still looks great after all these years. Well worth a look if you also liked Ron Howard’s Willow and other 80s fantasies.
4. Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003):
The last traditionally animated production by Dreamworks before they went exclusively CG, this animated adventure slightly reimagines the Middle East’s most iconic sailor as a wisecracking Greek adventurer who must recover a stolen artifact from the goddess Eris, in order to save the life of his best friend, the prince of Syracuse, after being framed for its theft.
While perhaps the simplest film on this list, Dreamworks’ Sinbad is still a very fun family swashbuckler, and not worthy of the negative baggage attached to its historical significance. Fast and loose plotting is compensated for by strong vocal performances from a highly talented cast (Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Joseph Fiennes), especially the second appearance of Pfieffer on here as Eris, gorgeous animation and grandiose set pieces with weird monsters that give Laputa a run for its money. While it may fall a little short at the end due to the logic of its villain, however, this is one you enjoy for pure spectacle and humour and is the definition of a great family watch on Friday with popcorn.
And with that, I must wrap up this little tale. You now have four more fantastical adventures for you and your whole family to get a kick out of, whether you like it animated or in the flesh. Yarns of monsters and sorcerers, faraway lands and great treasures, princes and princesses; there’s something here to suit everyone, young and old.