Godmothered (3 stars)

Godmothered

Disney's solidly delightful, live-action fairytale mixes festive film traditions with a sprinkling of subversion

Disney's famous formula gets an in-house ticking off in this endearingly performed and earnestly intentioned fairytale from Sharon Maguire. Sprinkling just enough magic and feminist messaging across its Christmas-set story, it's a sweet and silly comedy which fuses elements of Elf and Groundhog Day. The director of two Bridget Jones movies also riffs on her own back catalogue, with its heroines' attempts at sorting themselves out ending in pratfalls aplenty.

Conceptually it's rather cute. The usually acerbic Jillian Bell (Brittany Runs a Marathon, 22 Jump Street) is the excitable and incompetent trainee godmother Eleanor who, with the profession in jeopardy and everyone about to be retrained as tooth fairies, plots to deliver one lucky recipient's happily-ever-after.

Unearthing a letter from 10-year-old Mackenzie, who's looking for her prince, she leaves the Motherland and travels to a snowy Boston, where she finds a grown-up Mackenzie ('You're old, so old,' Eleanor despairs), now a single mom and TV producer, played by Isla Fisher. With Mackenzie's world-weariness infecting her children (Jillian Shea Spaeder and Willa Skye), Eleanor sets about trying to get everyone straight.

The script – from Kari Granlund and Melissa Stack – doesn't always gift her zingers, but Bell is nicely daffy and has some amusing scenes getting help from a trucker, discovering pool and the elixir that is 'light beer'. Fisher plays things fairly straight, bringing a bit of common sense and conviction to the surrounding madness, and if she shares a frisson with Santiago Cabrera's Hugh it doesn't intrude too jarringly on what is a heavily female focus.

Boston has rarely looked lovelier on screen and the film works up to an emotional, gently subversive, albeit formulaic-in-its-own-way, climax (yes, it takes place at a public event). June Squibb and Jane Curtain are great value in support as fellow godmothers, and there are solid gags involving a delinquent helper raccoon called Gary. Blending a more modern outlook with sparkling fantasy, Godmothered may even have enough charm to join the throng of festive favourites, as something that kids, and adults, will want to revisit in Christmases to come.

Available to watch on Disney+ from Fri 4 Dec.

Godmothered

  • 3 stars
  • 2020
  • US
  • PG
  • Directed by: Sharon Maguire
  • Cast: Isla Fisher, Jillian Bell, Jane Curtin, Mary Elizabeth Ellis
  • UK release: 4 December 2020

An inexperienced fairy godmother determines to prove her worth by helping a girl whose wish was ignored.

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