While the service boasts a treasure trove of beloved classics, Disney+ still searches for their original content identity. The platform’s debut year showcased a few highlights (Black is King and The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special), though those sparks were matched by a few unceremonious duds (Artemis Fowl and Mulan). Their latest endeavor Godmothered operates in the vein of their charmed live-action work, registering an earnest impression through the film’s inspired twist on familiar fairy tale trappings.
Godmothered follows an eager fairy godmother Eleanor (Jillian Bell) who ventures out on her own to prove her worth. She tracks down a previously ignored request from Mackenzie (Isla Fisher), a widowed woman stuck in a career rut. The unlikely pair form a genuine bond as they begin to re-discover their happily ever after.
Reading like the distant cousin of 2007’s alluring princess remix Enchanted, Godmothered defines its own voice among its fairy-tale elk. Screenwriters Melissa Stack and Kari Granlund set the narrative’s foundation around our preconceived notions of magical godmothers, who often serve as sage helping hands for princesses seeking their one true love. The clever writers then spend the remaining screentime drifting away from those long-standing contrivances. For Eleanor and Mackenzie, their affable connection becomes a tale of mutual self-discovery amidst insular self-doubts. Even with a few emotionally-doughy frames (the central conceits are blatantly spelled out), there’s a genuine sisterhood that resonates with a cozy warmth onscreen.
Much of the credit belongs to the film’s central stars. It’s been a joy to see Jillian Bell define her own presence of late, with the comedic stalwart steadily moving away from the one-note caricatures that Hollywood offered her way (last year’s Brittany Runs a Marathon was a dramatic change-of-pace). As the relentlessly spirited Eleanor, Bell’s infectious presence promotes the pratfall gags while establishing a well-textured character onscreen. Isla Fisher’s radiant charms elevate the straight-man role of Mackenzie, while character actors June Squibb, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, and Stephnie Weir elicit laughs from their supporting roles.
Godmothered is admittedly pleasant, though this streaming effort undersells some of its unique strengths. Director Sharon Maguire’s competent effort rarely basks in the glow of its magic-based premise. The Disney-Channel level flourishes limit this material compared to other big-screen offerings. Audiences will also have to contend with a familiar heaping of Disneyfied plot beats, which do distract from the film’s thoughtfully-conceived nucleus (the Disney’s dead dad streaks continues here).
It may not reinvent the wheel, but Godmothered displays the open-hearted sincerity of Disney’s best live-action work. With the release of Soul fast approaching, this could be a marquee month for the growing streaming service.