• 19 Dec - 25 Dec, 2020
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

Mirroring the best Disney classics, Godmothered opens on an antique gold-trimmed book that flies open, introducing us to a professional institute for fairy godmothers in a far-off realm. Eleanor (Jillian Bell) is the youngest and sunniest student in this cranky matriarchy run by an austere beldam called Moira. We're led to believe that faith in fairy tales has crusted over, much like these women have from years of redundancy.

To Eleanor's horror, the school is on the verge of foundering because of low demand for magic in the modern world. While her fellow trainees, all bored and complacent dowagers, continue to stagnate, Eleanor seeks to prove that their skills are still necessary, and soon finds a letter from 10-year-old redhead Mackenzie Walsh, begging for help with her crush. Unfortunately, Eleanor doesn't realise that the letter is from the 1980s.

With the help of her jaunty roommate Agnes, Eleanor sets off for wintry Boston and finds Mackenzie (Fisher) a jaded and burned-out 40-something. A producer at a local news station, Mackenzie is browbeaten by her hotshot boss (Utkarsh Ambudkar) to put a digital-age spin on yellow journalism. Her misery inspires Eleanor to use her spell-casting abilities to renovate the woman's life, often to calamitous effect.

Eleanor accidentally enthralls raccoons, explodes pumpkins, sets off colourful lights above TD Garden and gives Mackenzie ghastly makeovers with her wand. An EpiPen becomes a weapon in Mackenzie's hands after inadvertent anaphylaxis. They both fall a lot, often in the snow.

Bell, Squibb and Curtin each animate the screen with their playful vigor, and additional supporting turns from Stephnie Weir as an oddball newscaster, Artemis Pebdani as a sharp cameraperson and Mary Elizabeth Ellis as Mackenzie's warm sister all brighten the film. Fisher's albatross of a character is so draining, though, that we felt marginal investment in her burgeoning flirtation with nerdy co-worker Hugh Prince or her requisite happily-ever-whatever.

With such little attention paid to Mackenzie's two children, we suspect Godmothered may have been specifically pitched as content for adult Disney fans who love to bask in the familiar comforts of the conglomerate's anodyne programming. In other words, people like us. Jillian Bell is a fearless performer; we wish Godmothered wasn't ruled by Disneyfied fear of innovation. All in all, Godmothered is pleasant enough, a cheeky and nostalgic Christmas-themed family comedy with ambitions to be this generation's Enchanted.