Human beings aren’t the only ones having a rough 2020. According to the new Disney+ family comedy, Godmothered, even the mystical world of fairies is facing dire straits.
Godmothered begins in a magical realm called the Motherland, which is inhabited by fairy godmothers and fairy godmothers in-training. But there aren’t any jobs for fairy godmother graduates these days since people don’t think magic is real. And the high-ranking fairies plan to shut down the portal between earth and the Motherland.
We meet the film’s plucky hero Eleanor (Jillian Bell) in fairy godmother class, learning how to help young women achieve a fairy-tale life. Unlike all her cynical classmates, Eleanor still believes in the possibility of happily-ever-after, which makes her a pariah among her fellow fairies.
Eleanor knows that the world can use her help, so she sneaks out of the Motherland and travels to Boston to help a 10-year-old girl named Mackenzie. This is where Eleanor’s inexperience comes into play. Mackenzie’s letter is 30 years old, and that young girl is now a 40-year-old single mother (Isla Fisher). But being grown-up doesn’t mean you have life all figured out, so Eleanor makes it her mission to give Mackenzie a happiness makeover.
Godmothered delivers exactly what the trailer promises: a wholesome, feel-good family film. It blends two proven comedy genres – an odd couple pairing and a fish out of water story, to mixed results.
Bell’s Eleanor is the beating heart of the movie. She’s sweet as a Christmas cookie and optimistic to the point of delusion. Best of all, she has a knack for bumbling her way into silly situations. Fisher plays the straight-woman to Bell’s bonkers character. And credit goes out to Fisher for finding a way to remain charming while Mackenzie remains a total stick-in-the-mud. Both ladies play well off each other, which keeps you invested in what’s happening, even as Kari Granlund and Melissa Stack’s script reduces the cast into uninspired holiday movie caricatures.
Make no mistake, this story hits every worn-out holiday movie plot beat with clinical precision. Which is great if you want to sink into your couch and lose yourself in something cozy and familiar. However, Godmothered still attempts to set itself apart from most fairy-tale lore in one intriguing way.
Sharon Maguire (Bridget Jones’s Diary, Bridget Jones’s Baby) directed Godmothered, and she brings a certain degree of self-awareness to the material. The story relies on plenty of fairy-tale clichés, but Maguire isn’t a slave to these outdated themes. What she’s really doing is serving them up for inspection. Maguire asks viewers why we’re still telling stories with antiquated views on love, happiness, and female independence.
Perhaps indoctrinating young women with stories of handsome princes who exist only to solve all their problems is, you know, problematic. Who knew?
Godmothered isn’t destined to become Disney’s next Christmas classic, but it’s worth taking a flyer on if you’re looking for a feel-good holiday flick.