Director – Sharon Maguire
Cast – Jillian Bell, Isla Fisher
Godmothered doesn’t earn the right to be as sweet as it is. Few things could have been as genuinely good-natured as Ted Lasso this year, and the new Disney holiday film, despite its pure intentions, isn’t one of them.
You can see how hard it tries, and that’s a problem. While Ted Lasso, the fabulous Apple TV+ show, was effortlessly endearing, there’s a neediness to Godmothered, a desperation if you will. This also happens to be the defining quality of its protagonist, a fairy godmother-in-training named Eleanor.
Watch the Godmothered trailer here
Played by Jillian Bell, Eleanor lives in Motherland, the mystical home to fairy godmothers of all shapes and sizes. She studies magic at an academy, and is, by and large, a model student. Chipper to a fault and eternally optimistic, Eleanor finds herself surrounded by cynics. Gone is the sense of whimsy and wonder that fairy godmothers lived by — the world, they tell Eleanor, has turned into a dark place, and their services are simply not required any longer.
Threatened with redundancy and itching to prove to her peers that she can turn things around, Eleanor hatches a plan — she will break out of Motherland and attempt to fulfil the dreams of Mackenzie, a little girl who once wrote her a letter. And so Eleanor jumps through a magical wormhole and finds herself in Boston, looking for young Mackenzie Walsh.
Much to her shock, however, Mackenzie is no longer the hopeful 10-year-old who wrote the letter. Played by Isla Fisher, she is a disillusioned TV news producer, a single-mother who lost her husband in a car crash years ago. She rejects Eleanor’s sudden (forceful) insertion into her life, but as you’d expect to see in films such as this, mellows to her presence with passing time.
Their contrasting personalities inject some innocent drama to the proceedings, but the plot plays out in the most predictable manner. There’s humour to be found in Eleanor’s inexperience as a fairy godmother, and the fish-out-of-water situations that she finds herself in. But the surprises are virtually non-existent. Godmothered is more than happy to offer children unchallenging, undemanding comfort. Wholesome as it may be, the film rarely makes a case for itself.
Directed by Sharon Maguire, who helmed the first and third instalments of the Bridget Jones franchise, Godmothered has the look and feel of a Hallmark movie, and not a notable Disney+ holiday release. There’s a false sense of majesty to the Motherland sequences, all of which seem like they were made on a computer (including an unintentionally hilarious scene involving a CGI Eleanor). And the sections in the ‘real world’ have a certain flatness to them. Whether or not this was a deliberate attempt to highlight Mackenzie’s plain existence is debatable.
After careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that the film is designed to be viewed as background entertainment. It’s the sort of movie that a hassled parent might plonk their kids in front of, as they make last minute preparations for Christmas . And while they’re cleaning the house, or stuffing some food in the oven, or decorating the tree, the kids — five-year-olds, most probably — have switched on their iPads and started watching their favourite snackable content on YouTube. In the other room, Godmothered continues fulfilling its purpose, forgotten already. You can find it on Disney+ Hotstar.