The film is a co-production between companies in the United States, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.
Within the kingdom of Emir, in the town of Frell, a baby girl named Ella is born to Sir Peter and his wife Lady Eleanor. She is given the "gift of obedience" by a misguided and obnoxious fairy called Lucinda. This turns out to be more of a curse, as it forces Ella to do anything she is told to do, even if the command is against her wishes. Ella's mother, on her deathbed, warns her daughter not to tell anyone about the curse she is under for fear that someone might use it to exploit Ella. After her mother's death, only Mandy, the household fairy, knows the secret.
Several years later, Ella's father remarries to a wealthy socialite, Dame Olga, who dislikes Ella. Her spoiled daughters Hattie and Olive notice Ella's obedience and start to humiliate her. Ella stumbles upon Prince Charmont , the handsome heir who will soon take the throne, as he's being pursued by his fan club of besotted young women. He invites Ella to the Coronation Ball, but Olga intercepts the invitation. Hattie and Olive, fan club members themselves, are overcome with jealousy. They force Ella to insult and cut ties with her best friend Areida.
Ella cannot bear her situation a moment longer, and resolves to find Lucinda, as she is the only one who can reverse the spell. Mandy helps by lending Ella her boyfriend Benny, whom she accidentally transformed into a talking magical book that can show people in their current surroundings. During her journey, Ella encounters an elf named Slannen, who wants to be a lawyer instead of an entertainer as the laws now require. They are both captured by a group of ogres, who want to eat them. Prince Charmont rescues them and accompanies them to a wedding in the land of giants, where Ella hopes to find Lucinda. En route, Ella opens Char's eyes to the cruelty of the laws oppressing elves and giants established by the acting ruler, Char's uncle Sir Edgar. Char invites Ella to visit the palace's Hall of Records and find Lucinda faster. But Edgar's talking snake, Heston, is spying on them.
At the palace, Heston tells Edgar about Ella's obedience, which Hattie confirms when Edgar offers her Char's hand in marriage. Knowing that Char intends to marry Ella, Edgar orders her to kill him when he proposes, and keep the plan a secret. Edgar also reveals that he murdered Char's father. To save Char, Ella writes him a letter, saying she is leaving permanently and cannot explain why, which breaks his heart. She then asks Slannen to tie her to a tree and get the giants to help. Lucinda then appears before Ella, who asks her to undo the "gift" of obedience. Lucinda is offended that Ella doesn't like her gift and simply tells Ella to remove it herself. She unties Ella, gives her a fancy dress, and tells her to attend the ball, where Char almost immediately takes her to the Hall of Mirrors and asks her to marry him.
Ella is about to stab him with the dagger Edgar provided, when she realizes Lucinda has provided the answer: looking into a mirror, she says, "You will no longer be obedient!" She drops the dagger and Char sees it. But Edgar is spying on them, and before Ella can explain, he orders the guards to lock her up, to be executed the following day.
Meanwhile, Benny informs Slannen, the giants, and the ogres that Ella is in trouble, so they all sneak into the castle to rescue her. They find out that Edgar is poisoning the crown Char will receive during the ceremony. Ella and her allies burst in just in time to stop him putting it on. Edgar and Heston call for the knights and Red Guards, and a battle ensues. Ella explains everything while fighting alongside Char, while Mandy manages to transform Benny back into a human. When Edgar's forces lose, Heston tries to bite Char, but is stopped by Ella, then trampled by Char's fan club. Caught trying to kill the prince, Edgar admits to the crowd that he killed the King, but says only he deserves the crown. Then, carried away by his own rhetoric, he puts it dramatically on his own head—poisoning himself.
Char and Ella kiss; her stepsisters arrive and order her to stop, but she happily refuses. Char once again asks Ella to marry him, and she agrees: "Now that I'll do." The movie ends with their wedding and a musical number. During all this, it's shown that Slannen is in a relationship with a giant named Brumhilda, Ella has rekindled her friendship with Areida, and Edgar has survived (albeit cognitively impaired by the poison). The Narrator announces two final words: The End.Anne Hathaway as Ella of Frell. She is under a spell (curse) given to her by a fairy named Lucinda which makes her obedient.
Hugh Dancy as Prince Charmont (Char), son of the late king that was killed by his uncle. He is treated as a teen icon and has his own fan club, though he doesn't agree with this label.
Cary Elwes as Sir Edgar, the Prince's greedy uncle and King Regent who wants the crown for himself.
Steve Coogan as Heston the snake, Edgar's pet.
Aidan McArdle as Slannen, an elf who wanted to become a lawyer.
Minnie Driver as Mandy, a household fairy who was the only person kind to Ella when Sir Peter left. She always has some flaws in her spells.
Vivica A. Fox as Lucinda Perriweather, a well-meaning but misguided fairy who gave the "gift" to Ella. She never takes back her spells, and always helps at the wrong time.
Eric Idle as the Narrator
Parminder Nagra as Areida, Ella's best friend.
Jim Carter as Nish, an ogre who eats humans.
Patrick Bergin as Sir Peter, Ella's father who was a vendor of watches.
Joanna Lumley as Dame Olga, Ella's cruel stepmother.
Lucy Punch as Hattie, Ella's mean stepsister who is obsessed with Prince Charmont.
Jennifer Higham as Olive, Ella's kleptomaniac and dim-witted stepsister who always follows her older sister Hattie, is often mistreated by her, and rarely speaks.
Alvaro Lucchesi as Koopooduk, a giant who Char met at Giantsville.
Heidi Klum as Brumhilda, a giantess who met Slannen in Giantsville and has feelings for Slannen despite his size.
Jimi Mistry as Benny, Mandy's love interest. Turned into a talking book when one of Mandy's spells goes pear shaped.
Johnny Nguyen (uncredited) as Red Knight
Hathaway, who first read the book when she was 16, says that there was originally a version of the script that was much closer to the book but that it didn't work as a film; she added that she prefers the way the movie actually turned out because it "makes fun of itself for being a fairy tale." Levine states that the film is "so different from the book that it's hard to compare them," noting the addition of new characters such as Sir Edgar and Heston, and suggested "regarding the movie as a separate creative act".
Hathaway did her own singing in the film.
Jimi Mistry, a British actor of Indian descent, said that he enjoyed playing a talking book in the film because it offered him the opportunity to do something different from his other roles. "You can't get less Indian than a talking book, and an American talking book, so it was great," he said.
Miramax Films released the film on April 9, 2004. Its parent company, the Walt Disney Company, eventually sold Miramax to Filmyard Holdings. Disney still owns the rights to the film, and streams it for television on the Disney Channel. On April 30, 2013 another re-issue of the film appeared.
Ella Enchanted opened on April 9, 2004 and earned $6,169,030 in its opening weekend, ranking number nine at the domestic box office. At the end of its run, the film grossed $22,918,387 domestically and $4,470,380 overseas for a worldwide total of $27,388,767.
The film received mixed reviews from critics. Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes holds a 50% score based on 114 reviews with an average rating of 5.6/10. The site's consensus reads: "Hathaway is a charming heroine, but the simple storyline gets overwhelmed by silly gimmickry." On Metacritic, the film has a 53 out of 100 rating based on 30 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert gave the film 3 1/2 stars out of 4, praising it as "the best family film so far this year" (April 9, 2004).
The soundtrack was released April 6, 2004 by Hollywood Records and features Kelly Clarkson's cover of "Respect" along with "Somebody to Love" and "Don't Go Breaking My Heart", both as covered by Hathaway and Jesse McCartney.