GODMOTHERED – Review
So, who could use a little magic? This year, who couldn’t, even with just a few weeks left in 2020? We’re not talking about luck or “good fortune”, but rather the sprinkly, sparkly spells that come straight from witches, pixies, and wizards. Sure, that’s the stuff of faerie tales, but wouldn’t it be great if that mythology had some real-life basis? Sweet, huh? Now other than big blue “motor-mouthed” genies, who’s the big “wish-granter”? Just ask the dazzling blonde rockin’ those glass slippers. She’ll tell you from first-hand knowledge that it’s pretty great to be GODMOTHERED. But would that “fly” today, even using lotsa’ pixie dust?
That question is answered in the new film by taking a trip to another dimension. Where do faerie godmothers come from? Why Motherland, of course. But things are pretty dismal there, as 21st century Earth folk just don’t believe like they used to. The “GMs’ in the magic classes are pretty downbeat, except for the youngest one “in training”, the bubbly smiling Eleanor (Jillian Bell). But she’s even dismayed by the unexpected appearance in class by the “queen mum” and ruler of the land Moira (Jane Curtin). Unless some human is helped, the whole place will shut down and cease to exist. Things seem hopeless, but Eleanor won’t give up. Scouring the “request files” she finds one lonely letter, from little Mackenzie Walsh in Boston, USA. Without Moira’s knowing (she wouldn’t approve), Eleanor, with the aid of her roomie Agnes (June Squibb), dashes through a mystical portal to our world. Thing is, she’s still getting the hang of her wand, so she hitchhikes to “Bean-town” only to discover that her last chance isn’t a child (that letter had been there a while). Mackenzie (Isla Fisher) is the single mother of two young women, Jane (Jillian Shea Spaeder) and Mia (Willa Skye) who’s working as a news segment producer for a struggling TV station. Of course, she thinks Eleanor, in her frilly pink ball gown, is a tad “touched” in the head. Can Eleanor possibly get her “spell-casting act” together and get the Walsh family to believe in magic before that portal closes and Motherland is no more?
After stealing scenes in several studio ensemble comedies (22 JUMP STREET, ROUGH NIGHT, THE NIGHT BEFORE) and headlining an indie (BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON), Bell looks to expand into family flicks as the simple sunny Eleanor. She succeeds for the most part, due to her fearless comic commitment (getting pelted with pumpkin mush while in that pink hoop dress) and slapstick skills (trying to control a wand that seems to have a mind of its own). It’s a smooth stroll from the hard-partying gal-pal to the sweet, clueless, and clumsy conjuror. Luckily the character has a superb straight-man, er…woman, and “reality buffer” in Fisher as the sour, cynical Mackenzie whose tough “outer layer” is slowly melted away by Eleanor’s optimism. She’s got great support at home with the two talented young actresses playing her daughters. Skye’s Mia hasn’t quite shaken her sense of joy and wonder, while Spaeder as big sis Jane is still haunted by the family’s past tragedy which almost stifles her creative musical talents (she’s been given the big solo at the holiday pageant). As for “Mack’s” work “fam”, Santiago Cabrera is an affable encouraging “chum’, who may become something more, as her “roving reporter” Hugh Prince (hmmm…that last name). Much of that applies to Mack’s BFF Duff played with a subtle sense of snark by Artemis Pebdani. Of course, not everybody can be nice and helpful (although both certainly apply to the always fun Squibb as Agnes). Bell’s BRITTANY love interest Utkarsh Ambudkar provides a smidge of comic villainy as Mack’s rating and publicity (“Gotta’ go viral!”) desperate boss Grant. And though she’s tart and intimidating, Curtin as Moira proves to be the “tough love” matriarch that Eleanor needs, though she has a real scary regal vibe about her.
A veteran of two BRIDGET JONES films, director Sharon Maguire does a fairly good job of keeping the story from collapsing under excess whimsy while eliciting great comic work from the cast (would love to see Bell and Fisher teamed again for a more adult romp). Unfortunately, her efforts are often undone by a script that begs too many comparisons to the superior fantasy /modern-day comedy mash-ups ELF and ENCHANTED. Some of the plot machinations are predictable (somehow the station’s ratings skyrocket due to Eleanor’s mishaps) and inconsistent (that wand seems to work correctly when needed for the story). And the attempts at pathos are somewhat heavy-handed, especially in the big musical finale. The various locales around Boston are lovely, as is the “faerie-world” of Motherland (still too many historical problems with that word, though). Big kudos however for the charming “2-D” animated prologue which would be a great medium for a modest follow-up (a bit of a long-shot). Though it’s doubtful that this film could become a perennial fave like the aforementioned flicks, the smallest tykes may be entertained for a bit as their folks indulge in some “cyber-shopping” rather than getting GODMOTHERED.
2 Out of 4
GODMOTHERED streams exclusively on Disney+ beginning December 4th, 2020.