Enchanted Director: Kevin Lima (102 Dalmations, Tarzan) Producers: Barry Sonnenfeld, Barry Josephson Starring: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, Susan Sarandon, Timothy Spall, Idina Menzel MPAA Rating: PG Running time: 107 min
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reviewed by Enrico Banson Walt Disney himself has always been a revisionist. If he were alive today, he would be pleased with his studio’s latest effort, Enchanted, a quasi-animated revisionist fairy tale that has one foot planted deep in the best of Disney animation and the other rooted in crowd-pleasing romantic musical comedies. Leave it to Disney to bring the obvious pairing to light. It’s a no-brainer. Both genres constantly borrow from each other, so why not make a movie designed around this notion? Yet the whole idea of Enchanted feels fresh because it takes from the best scenarios and the worst of each genre’s clichés reviving it into something far too appealing, maybe even for its own good. Thankfully, what you get is a thoroughly enjoyable family movie that delights.
Enchanted opens as a traditional 2-D animation piece bringing such joyous praise from the audience. It’s great to see quality hand-drawn animation from the studio again. Sure, the premise of the film is somewhat of a parody of the best princess motifs from the Disney canon; taking bits and pieces from Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and surprisingly, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, a classic so highly regarded by the studio and animators in general that seeing Disney spoof its most influential film is a welcoming sign from Disney; known to be too protective of their entities. Here, they prove they have a sense of humor, and a wicked one at that.
The movie revolves around the typical Disney princess named Giselle embodied wonderfully and convincingly by Amy Adams. As an animated waif, she does what we expect: sing with a high soprano trill and effortlessly communicate with all her furry little friends. She pines for Prince Edward (an excellent James Marsden) who answers her call by singing a refrain of his own. They’re goal is to get married and live happily ever after if only the Prince’s evil wicked stepmother Queen Narissa (an underused Susan Sarandon) didn’t get in the way. She eventually finds a way to banish Giselle to a world far away from their own: ours. She lands in Manhattan—Times Square no less—her drawn figure now flesh and blood. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the real world and trying desperately to adapt her good-natured ideals to a city known for its cynicism and world-weariness, Giselle finds shelter with a straight-laced single father named Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his daughter Morgan (Rachel Covey). Of course life in the real world is never easy, even for an animated princess. Giselle’s feelings for Robert are growing even though there’s already a woman in Robert’s life (the talented Idina Menzel). Giselle’s difficulty of adapting to a new world with, literally, very different dimensions makes the film a gleeful experience thanks to Amy Adams’ spot-on performance. She’s a throwback to the musical comedy greats of the past, reminiscent of Shirley McClaine or Carol Lombard. Adams makes the movie worth the price of the ticket alone.
Throughout most of the film, director Kevin Lima keeps the tone light even if the writing and the directing fall a bit short in the third act build-up. Still, there’s plenty to admire, like the reliable songwriting work of veterans Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, giving us a rousing musical number in Central Park that probably employed every working singer/dancer on Broadway. There’s also a brilliant surreal sequence that involves Giselle rounding up urban critters to help tidy up Robert’s flat truly making you wonder the infinite possibilities to be had if we could only communicate with cockroaches. It’s a fascinating moment in the film and had the audience I saw it with laughing it up.
Perhaps it’s seeing Enchanted with my 11-year old sister and her classmates—the intended target audience—that made it worthwhile for me. The media seems to be marketing towards that specific demographic lately. They’re the same commodity that ate up last summer’s surprise hit, Hairspray, a film that Enchanted takes familiar strains from. Yet even my fellow chaperones seemed satisfied. There truly is an undeniable sense of magic to the movie, thanks mostly to Amy Adams. Enchanted is a welcoming touch to the possibility of what Disney as a film studio can do and has done before. And even though the film is far from perfect, there are enough elements that make it wonderful family entertainment truly living up to the title it so lovingly holds.