The Disney+ streaming service has brought us joy for a little over a year now, and it keeps on giving with GODMOTHERED – a Disney+ Original film set during the holiday season in Philadelphia. Much like NOELLE, the whole family can watch and enjoy GODMOTHERED all December long.
Set at Christmas time, “Godmothered” is a comedy about Eleanor, a young, inexperienced fairy godmother-in-training (Jillian Bell / Bless the Harts) who upon hearing that her chosen profession is facing extinction, decides to show the world that people still need fairy godmothers. Needing an assignment, Eleanor finds the last letter written to a fairy godmother and tracks the 10-year-old girl down. Only to discover that the letter was written 30 years ago and the girl, Mackenzie, is now a 40-year-old single mom (Isla Fisher / Confessions of a Shopaholic) working at a news station in Boston. Having lost her husband several years earlier, Mackenzie has all but given up on the idea of “Happily Ever After,” but Eleanor is bound and determined to give Mackenzie a happiness makeover, whether she likes it or not.
The film begins in a magical realm called The Motherland in which Eleanor is learning to become a Fairy Godmother. Very reminiscent of the opening of It’s A Wonderful Life and Elf. In fact, the plot is a similar fish-out-of-water story. Elf must leave the North Pole and ventures into New York City to find his dad. Clarence leaves heaven on a quest to help George Bailey find hope and earn his wings in Bedford Falls. In GODMOTHERED, Eleanor leaves the Motherland to help Eleanor find her Happily Ever After in Philadelphia and earn her Fairy Godmother status, saving the Motherland from going extinct in the process.
This film makes tons of references to familiar themes, films and fairy godmother tropes. There are cute references to Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother, such as Eleanor’s desire to turn pumpkins into carriages and her horror at discovering women drive themselves, rather than footmen. Some of the moments are overly sweet and pandering a bit too much to young kids. As a kid I would’ve loved this film. The references to The Sound of Music would’ve made me giddy! However, here they serve up the sweetness to a notch I almost can’t quite handle.
Isla Fisher is delightful as Mackenzie and gives a performance that really carries the heart of the film. Even though the film begins with fairy Godmother Eleanor, Mackenzie is the character we all identify with. Interesting choice of Jillian Bell as the Godmother in training. Perhaps it was the directing, but her character is so “on-the-nose” as a wide-eyed innocent with no knowledge of this real world. She needed some spice. I think this movie would’ve really popped had they chosen an actress who has an established persona like Wanda Sykes or Rebel Wilson, who could play off characters and improvise more.
One very refreshing note about GODMOTHERED – there are a lot of women in this film. Having just watched Inside PIXAR, Ep 4, in which the screenwriter Jessica Heidt notes the appalling gender imbalance in films, GODMOTHERED turns the 80/20 men to women ratio on its head. A full 18 minutes passes in this movie before you see one male character. Mackenzie, her two daughters, a female family friend and Eleanor populate several scenes in the movie and it is quite refreshing. Tipping the percentage in the opposite direction!
The typical fairy godmother story includes a prince character, and the assumption that when the girl and prince get together, they live happily ever after. While there is a “Prince” in this story, it is not the focal point. The message is about believing in yourself and others – there is no magical “prince” that will lead to happily ever after. You make it happen.
Directed by Sharon Maguire (Bridget Jones’ Diary, Bridget Jones’ Baby), Godmothered is a sweet story with this heartwarming message. An updated fairy tale you can watch with the whole family this holiday season.