Genre: Fairy Tale and Musical Running Time: 1 hr. 47 min.
Release Date: November 21st, 2007 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Kevin Lima Actors: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, Timothy Spall, Susan Sarandon, Idina Menzel, Rachel Covey, Julie Andrews
bewitching idea that commences with gallant success, Disney’s “Enchanted” is a blend of traditional animation and live action that is sure to delight younger audiences – and, possibly, older crowds too. The initial setup is so whimsically silly that the crabbiest of folks are bound to melt under the numbing gaze of Amy Adams’ naively flirty eyes and the reality-infused, humorously-staged fairyland events. But the love triangle, the focus on a separation between real life and fantasy, and a fearsome dragon are predicaments that the film’s grounded aspects struggle to smoothly resolve – especially when magic was needed to instigate them in the first place.
The evil Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon) becomes fearful of losing her kingdom of Andalasia to her stepson Prince Edward (James Marsden), should he ever find true love. When Edward suddenly announces his wedding with newfound beauty Giselle (Amy Adams), the wrathful sorceress throws her into a wishing well that transports her to present-day Manhattan. Completely contrary to the carefree, song-and-dance lifestyle of her colorful, happy home, Giselle is greeted with skepticism and unkind faces in New York as she desperately seeks help to return to her castle. When Prince Edward learns of her disappearance, he jumps down the wishing well in pursuit, aided by foot-servant Nathaniel (Timothy Spall). Meanwhile, Giselle meets Robert (Patrick Dempsey), the only one who is amicable enough to help her, but he quickly finds that her cartoon-fantasy lifestyle is destroying the stability of his big-city career.
The first half of “Enchanted” is exactly that – enchanting. Amy Adams’ wide-eyed, innocent princess is dumped into the unwelcoming world of New York, where she is subjected to the harshness of modern living (not unlike ideas explored in “The Phantom Tollbooth” and “Elf” and, in some ways, “The Wizard of Oz”). Basically, reality sucks. But, like any body-swapping or status-flipping premise, it’s highly enjoyable to witness her hilarious unpreparedness in the face of dispassionate humanity. Upon meeting Robert, she requests guidance to a grassy meadow or a hollow tree to sleep in; she continually breaks out into fully choreographed songs and dance (in the same vein as one of the most prominent scenes in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”); and she summons the help of real-life rodents to do household cleaning – including rats, flies, and cockroaches instead of cute little mice, sparrows, and fawns. Adams is a continual delight to watch; “Enchanted” surely wouldn’t have amounted to much without her. Similarly, Marsden’s Edward charismatically fights hulking metal dragons (city buses) and masters the use of a magic mirror (a TV set) in his quest to save his betrothed.
The second half of the film is where things fall short, due to the many conflicts that arise from mixing reality and fantasy when they are so discordant from representations in live-action versus animation. The introductions of many of the characters are as cartoons in a traditionally-animated world; when thrust into the live-action realm of New York, the script is unable to satisfactorily transition them back and forth. To further complicate matters, the love triangle between Giselle, Edward, and Robert halts much of the later comedy elements. And when the dragon finally appears (following a “Sleeping Beauty” formula), it’s evident that charm is entirely substituted for absurdity.
Susan Sarandon’s performance as the evil queen is the most over-the-top character, even painfully noticeable in a film that is clearly challenging plausibility. A poisoned apple plot makes an appearance, as does a luxurious ball and countless other references to the most popular Disney animated features. Nathaniel’s supporting character is appropriate, although particularly generic, while Giselle’s computer-animated chipmunk pal serves as little more than routine comic relief – although the audience is mainly forced to pity him. As the end draws near, “the place where there are no happily-ever-afters” is destined for a predictably happy ending. While viewers wouldn’t have wanted it to conclude any other way, returning things to the way they were is utterly impossible; the epilogue-styled afterwards is a bit too neat and tidy and unreasonably resolute. Still, the film is bound to be a lot of fun for the younger target audience and, as a side effect, generally amusing (the songs are particularly catchy) for adults who can ignore the ridiculousness of the climax and denouement.
– Mike Massie