Organized by a powerful pharmaceutical company a scientific expedition is sent into the deep dark jungles of Borneo to search for a rare blood-red orchid which may or may not unlock the secrets of youth and immortality. "Bigger than Viagra!" states one company exec. No kidding. The thing is the flower only blooms every seven years and it would take about 100 orchids to yield just a small amount of juice. Doesn't sound very practical if you're talking about the fountain of youth here. Imagine the demands…but I digress. What the group--which includes an obsessed scientist (Matthew Marsden); his money-hungry business partner (Morris Chestnut); the scientist's beautiful assistant (Kadee Strickland); the company's bitchy representative (Salli Richardson-Whitfield); the tough-as-nails (but very hunky) river boat captain (Johnny Messner); the comic relief (Eugene Byrd); and a couple of others--doesn't know is that these flowers have been pumping up the local fauna namely the anacondas (who are actually only native to the Amazon but hey Borneo works) as they derive their super strength and vitality from the orchids not to mention their appetites. Uh-oh. We've just got to get these crazy kids together.
You know you're in trouble when the only name you recognize on the marquee is Morris Chestnut. Not to say Chestnut best known for supporting roles in films such as Half Past Dead and Two Can Play That Game isn't a capable actor; he's just not really a name. Apparently Anacondas producers wanted to go with unknowns to separate itself from its predecessor. That and the fact most of the original cast bought the farm in the first Anaconda except for Jennifer Lopez who for obvious reasons wouldn't touch this sequel with a ten-foot pole. So. What we are left with are some pretty green actors who do their very best (which isn't saying much) to act horrified and deliver such stellar dialogue as "Everything gets eaten out here. It's a jungle" or "We are young single and in Borneo." Byrd (8 Mile) stands out slightly as the wisecracking techno geek who does some of the better freak-out scenes. But if you really want to know it's the river boat captain's pet organ-grinder monkey who steals the show; you can just feel his tension as he's running away from the slithering predators.
A sequel to a cheesy snake movie that only made money because it had a seriously disturbed cult following? What's next Showgirls 2? Anacondas classic movie monster set up is the only thing its got going for it and director Dwight H. Little (Murder at 1600) utilizes this structure to the best of his abilities showing a lot of snake some swallowing of humans and very little else. And nothing can get better than a giant snake orgy. Oh you heard right. The reason there is a plural on the end of the title (and trust me I'm not giving anything away) is that it's mating season for those frisky anacondas--and all the males have come running to find the delicious female in heat chomping on the flowers and getting huge. This is Borneo after all where apparently snake lovin' is a must. Beyond this bit of salaciousness the plot holes logic and just about anything else in the film are so appalling you actually wish the campy Jon Voight from the original movie would pop up as the mastermind behind the whole operation explaining how he was the one who brought the anacondas from the Amazon to Borneo. Now that would be a twist.
Based on the best-selling prize-winning novel by Gail Carson Levine of the same title Ella of Frell (Anne Hathaway) lives in a magical world where ogres giants fairies elves and such live together in relative harmony. When Ella was born her fairy godmother Lucinda (Vivica A. Fox) gave her a special gift--obedience--which turns out à la Sleeping Beauty to be more like a curse. As the young beauty grows up she's unable to refuse any command which often leaves her at the mercy of unscrupulous personalities--in particular her new stepmother (Joanna Lumley) and wicked stepsisters who get a kick out of torturing her à la Cinderella. Before long the headstrong Ella has had enough. In a bid to regain control of her life she goes on a quest to find Lucinda and free herself from her burden. She picks up some friends along the way à la The Wizard of Oz including a know-it-all named Benny (Jimi Mistry) an elf named Slannen (Aidan McArdle) and the dashing soon-to-be-king Prince Charmont (Hugh Dancy). But Ella also encounters ogres giants and Charmont's uncle the egomaniacal Sir Edgar (Cary Elwes) who as the de facto evil despot has caused great discord in the land. Ella has to make the prince realize his uncle is a bad bad man help him own up to his kingly responsibilities restore peace in the land and--of course--fall in love. But first and foremost she has to get rid of that stinkin' gift.
Hathaway who was a breath of fresh air in the 2001 sleeper hit The Princess Diaries solidifies her reputation as a natural comedienne in Ella Enchanted. The sassy forward-thinking medieval lass forced to obey every command despite herself gets into some precarious situations (watch how her nasty stepsisters make her steal stuff from the medieval mall "Galleria of Frell") and Hathaway's endearing qualities--the expressive face the affinity for physical comedy--accentuate the charming story. As her love interest Prince Charmont Dancy (Black Hawk Down) clicks with Hathaway and has the looks and personality Teen Beat readers (or as the magazine's called in the film Medieval Teen) drool over. But it's the rest of the cast who truly complete the film--including Minnie Driver as Ella's fairy nursemaid Mandy who isn't very good at dispensing magic; Mistry (The Guru) as Benny the boyfriend Mandy accidentally turns into a talking book; Elwes who does a complete turnaround from his hero in Princess Bride; Lumley (Absolutely Fabulous) as the greedy stepmother; Heidi Klum (yes the model) as a fetching giant; and especially newcomer McArdle who as an elf supposedly destined to only make merry and sing songs really wants to be a lawyer.
In addition to its fresh storyline Ella Enchanted looks great too. In green magical Ireland director Tommy O'Haver (Get Over It) re-created the details of the enchanted medieval kingdom's thatched-roof houses tall castle spires and fields of poppies in colorful comically anachronistic sets and costumes. Die-hard fans of the novel however may feel slighted that O'Haver (along with a long list of writers) veered too far from the original source choosing to cater to the teen set with modern-day MTV touches not found in the more traditional book. The "Frell Galleria " for example with its man-powered wooden escalators is cute but not entirely necessary. Neither are the two musical numbers in the film one in which Ella is ordered to sing at a giant's wedding and bursts into a rousing rendition of Queen's "Someone To Love." But despite whatever targeted audience the movie's going for they'll all be completely entertained by the whole package.