Enchanted (2007) / Fantasy-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG for some scary images and mild innuendo
Running time: 107 min.
Cast: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, Susan Sarandon, James Marsden, Timothy Spall, Rachel Covey, Idina Menzel
Director: Kevin Lima
Screenplay: Bill Kelly
Review published November 25, 2007
Stellar casting proves to be the Enchanted's strongest asset, and it's hard to imagine a more perfect performance in the lead role than the funny, effervescent and endearing one given by Amy Adams (Underdog, The Wedding Date), in her 30s, but playing a young would-be princess to perfection. She doesn't just carry the weight on her shoulders, but without her, this film would probably be just a quaint diversion, instead of the immense charmer that it is. Feeding off of her energy are good performances by Marsden (Superman Returns, X-Men: The Last Stand) and Sarandon (Mr. Woodcock, Irresistible), who perform their over-the-top characters with great gusto, and a whole lot of fun. Although somewhat predictable and somewhat cheesy, that's kind of the point, as the Disney team have more fun sending up their own conventions, pulling from decades of family entertainment done right, in order to serve up yet another example of why they are the best at what they do.
Enchanted starts off in an animated and magical Disney world, dubbed Andalusia, full of noble princes, lovely princesses, and cute, anthropomorphic animals galore. It is in this world that Giselle, a bright-eyed and mirthful damsel becomes betrothed to the handsome (if daft) Prince Edward. However, Edward's mother, the scheming dragon witch Queen Narissa, sees her as a threat to her throne, and unworthy for her Edward, so she puts a curse on Giselle that casts her through a magic portal where she ends up emerging in the world of modern live-action New York City.
A stranger in a strange land, Giselle is soon begrudgingly befriended by an engaged father, Robert Philip (Dempsey, Freedom Writers), who initially thinks her to be some sort of crazy person needing psychiatric assistance. Although quite annoyed at her antics at first, Giselle's always optimistic outlook soon begins to grow on Rob and his young daughter, Rachel. However, Giselle isn't the only person to come through the portal, as Prince Edward emerges to heroically come looking for her, while Queen Narissa sends one of her minions, Nathaniel, to get Giselle to take a bite of the dreaded poison apple. It's be kissed or be killed in this race for Giselle's fate, and caught in the middle, Robert must make some hard choices about his own life that could lead to great changes for both fantasy and reality.
Disney vet Alan Menkin (The Shaggy Dog, Life with Mikey), collaborating with Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz (The Prince of Egypt, Gepetto), provides the catchy songs, which will have many a theater patron humming one of the several ditties for hours after the film is over. The songs, like the film itself, build upon traditional Disney fairy tales for inspiration, having fun with the conventions without making fun of them, such as the generically titled "Happy Working Song", which is brought to date by having Giselle gather the neighborhood animals (NYC's pigeons, rats and cockroaches) to help her with picking up the disheveled bachelor pad.
It's good to see Disney return to 2D animation, as the studio had said, at one time, that they would ditch them in favor of more profitable computer generated fare, even if it's just for portions of the film. I guess what's old can seem new again. Besides, all of the Disney classics that are borrowed from are from that tradition, so it's really the best way to go. Interestingly, 3D animation is featured quite prominently in the live-action scenes, including a tagalong chipmunk named Pip, a special effects dragon, and various animals Giselle is able to command through her singing.
While it may not be a classic in itself, the film should prove to have an enduring quality for its generation, perhaps garnering the affection that those who grew up in the 1990s have for The Princess Bride and its toying with traditional fairy tale conventions. It's mounted on successively fragile scenes that necessitate complete disbelief suspension in order to entertain, so it's to great credit to the performers that they are able to sell it without losing momentum by making us wonder what motivation anyone has to do what they do throughout. We enjoy watching them do what they do, and are willing to give them the benefit of the doubt in order to be delighted by more.
It is a PG film, with a couple of moments of dark hour and mild innuendo, as well as an ending that may seem a bit too intense for what had previously been a fluffy soufflé of a film. It should be remembered that Disney films of yesteryear didn't exactly shy away from those intense scenes either.
Viewers that consider themselves great fans of old Disney, specifically such classics as Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty probably don't need to be told to go out and see this movie -- it's almost a certainty that you've seen it if you're reading this now. However, for those too young or not as Disney crazy, it is still fine family entertainment, and it also works as a good romantic comedy date movie fit for all ages. Perhaps its inherent "in-joke" quality will limit this strictly to audiences familiar with the Disney library of animated family films, but if that means you, there's a good chance you'll come away feeling every bit of the film's title.
©2007 Vince Leo