Even as a loose retelling of the "Cinderella" fable, "Ever After" isn't one for the ages.
For one thing, it's more feminist than fairy tale. And its look is more New Age than Middle Ages.What's more, the treatment is so lightweight that the whole thing threatens to drift into the ether about midway through.
That said, it's definitely a cut above the revisionist versions of classic literature we've had to muddle through in recent years (think "Great Expectations" or "William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet").
And despite a few slips on her part, including some scenes where she stifles giggles, Drew Barrymore really pours on the charm as the heroine of this romantic tale, set in 16th-century Europe.
She stars as Danielle, a well-read but tomboyish orphan forced to become a servant in the home of her cruel stepmother, Rodmilla (Anjelica Huston). Though she is continually browbeaten by her stepmother and by Marguerite, one of her two stepsisters (Megan Dodd), Danielle remains upbeat and kind to others, including her fellow servants.
In fact, during a brief encounter she even engages spoiled Prince Henry (Dougray Scott, from "Black Beauty") in an argument on the subject of servants' rights.
That exchange leaves the young prince speechless and eager to find the woman, whom he mistakenly believes to be a countess. Adding desperation to that search is a command from his father, the king: find a bride within five days or be content to have an arranged marriage with a Spanish princess.
But Danielle has also been imprisoned by her stepmother, so it's up to kind-hearted artist Leonardo da Vinci (stage actor Patrick Godfrey) to reunite the seemingly star-crossed lovers.
In his zeal to make Danielle more than just a "damsel in distress," co-writer/director Andy Tennant ("Fools Rush In") lays on the heroine angle so thick that some of the other characters end up being one-dimensional, especially the prince, who comes off as a buffoon.
Fortunately, Barrymore has enough feistiness to compensate, though her English accent (one of many adopted in the movie, even though the film is set in France) leaves a lot to be desired.
As the villain of the piece, Huston is so deliciously wicked that she almost steals the movie away from her co-star.
"Ever After" is rated PG-13 for some violent fistfighting and sword fighting, as well as a couple of vulgar double entendres and profanities.