Several years ago, a prominent Hollywood production company tried to develop a movie based on C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The famed children's tale had been adapted for television a few times before, but Narnia fans like me were still waiting with high hopes for the definitive film treatment of Lewis's story So imagine our shock, indeed our outrage, when Lewis's step-son, Douglas Gresham, reported that the screenplay he had seen had introduced all sorts of modern, and distinctly non-Lewisian, elements to the story. Cheeseburgers had replaced Turkish delight, and the Allied Leopards of Narnia had formed their own trade union.
That movie, thankfully, was never made; the film rights reverted to the Lewis estate, which has since permitted an entirely different company to adapt the story. But I was reminded of that near-catastrophe while watching Ella Enchanted, Tommy O'Haver's campy adaptation of Gail Carson Levine's charming fairy tale about a girl who is cursed with the gift of perfect obedience. The film keeps the book's interesting premise—ever since a fairy visited her home when she was a baby, Ella (The Princess Diaries' Anne Hathaway) simply cannot refuse to do what anybody tells her to do—as well as some character names and a few basic plot points, but it changes everything else.
Levine's book makes just enough nods to existing fairy tales to qualify as "post-modern," in some sense of the word; the basic tale, which includes wicked stepsisters, glass slippers and the like, is a revision of the Cinderella story, and the characters even remark that tales like The Shoemaker and the Elves perpetuate false stereotypes. (Elves in the real world aren't that short!) But that's about as far as ...1
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